#MeToo: Four women journalists accuse MJ Akbar of sexual harassment
Days after Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta alleged Nana Patekar of sexual harassment, the Pandora box has opened for #MeToo. In a latest addition to the ongoing list, renowned journalist and Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar’s name is making the headlines.
At least four journalists have made allegations of sexual harassment against Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar on Monday evening. Priya Ramani was the first to expose MJ Akbar without taking his name as the ‘unnamed editor’. She accused him of inappropriate behaviour and had written about it in an article in Vogue India in October 2017.
Here is a tweet of Priya Ramani: “I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t “do” anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator—maybe they’ll share. #ulti https://www.vogue.in/content/harvey-weinsteins-open-letter-sexual-harassment/amp/#click=https://t.co/A2uHiJt9zd …”
— Priya Ramani (@priyaramani) October 8, 2018
In response to her tweet, three women journalists came forward and made allegations of sexual harassment against MJ Akbar.
A former journalist who worked under Akbar in the 1990s, but wished to remain unidentified, said, “He would try his luck with anything that moved, but was not particularly vindictive”.
“Successful men in power were expected to behave like this, they were widely understood to behave like this, and that was considered just fine and normal,” she said. “I think Akbar is slimy in many ways. There was a clear category of successful male behaviour that he fell within — this was the trouble. People didn’t even realise or think that there is anything wrong with this behaviour,” she added.
Another former employee of a newspaper, Akbar edited in the 1990s, alleged that he was known to try and manipulate young, impressionable women in his publications.
Speaking to Scroll.in on the condition of anonymity, another woman claimed that she did not yet wish to share her personal experience of sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar. But she described the atmosphere in the newsroom.
“The bizarre thing was, they always hired young women at the newspaper,” said the woman. “There were always more young women than men in office, and it used to be called Akbar’s harem. This was the reputation he came with.” She also said that Akbar’s behaviour was both an abuse of power at one level and emotionally destabilising for young persons at another.
Notably, Akbar has been the editor of prominent newspapers like The Telegraph, Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian. He is also a member of the Rajya Sabha from the Bharatiya Janata Party apart from being a minister. Currently, MJ Akbar is believed to be in Nigeria.