Akbar asked to step down for fair probe

New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) | Publish Date: 10/15/2018 12:40:17 PM IST

Expressing “deep disappointment” at Union Minister M.J. Akbar’s threat of legal action against complainants alleging sexual harassment at his hands, journalist bodies on Monday said the Minister must step down for the sake of an impartial probe into the matter.

“In the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, it would only be appropriate that the Minister steps down from his post till such time as the inquiry is completed,” the Press Club of India, Indian Women Press Corps, South Asian Women in Media and the Press Association said in a joint statement on Monday. 
“We are disappointed that Akbar did not choose to take this step (resigning) instead of threatening the complainants with legal action,” it added.
The joint statement said the need for an impartial probe into all the complaints “without fear or intimidation to the complainants” acquires particular significance if the accused was an “influential Minister” in the government.  The journalist organisations pointed out that sexual harassment at workplace was a “worrisome reality” and that media organisations and managements had been unable to put the systems in place to address this problem. 
“Sexual harassment at the workplace is a pervasive phenomenon. It has continued with impunity despite the enactment of a tough law to prevent, prohibit and redress it. The inability of women to speak out about such harassment needs serious introspection and redress. 
 Akbar files defamation case 
Union Minister M.J. Akbar on Monday filed a criminal defamation complaint against a journalist, Priya Ramani, who had accused him of sexual harassment amidst the raging #MeToo movement in the country.
Around a dozen women journalists have accused Akbar of sexual harassment and molestation, leading to a growing chorus for his ouster as the Minister of State for External Affairs. 
Countering the charges, Akbar claimed that false and defamatory statements which were widely published in the media had caused irreparable loss to his reputation.
Akbar’s complaint was filed in the Patiala House court complex.
Akbar has sought Ramani’s prosecution under Section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.
He alleged that Ramani wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously defamed him by making a completely false and frivolous statement which has harmed his goodwill and reputation within the political fraternity, media, friends, family, colleagues and society at large.
Akbar trying to crush truth: Priya Ramani 
After Union Minister M.J. Akbar on Monday filed a criminal defamation suit against journalist Priya Ramani for levelling allegations of sexual harassment, Ramani said Akbar is trying to “silence” the voices “through intimidation and harassment”.
Ramani is one of the many women who, in the raging #MeToo campaign, have accused Akbar of sexually harassing them in the capacity of the Editor of The Asian Age and other publications.
“I am deeply disappointed that a Union Minister should dismiss the detailed allegations of several women as a political conspiracy. By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Akbar has made his stand clear,” Ramani said in a statement that she shared on the social media.
She insisted that she would fight allegations of defamation as “truth and absolute truth is my only defence”.

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