The Editors Guild of India on Thursday asked MJ Akbar to withdraw the defamation case he has filed against journalist Priya Ramani, who is one of many women who have accused the former minister and editor of sexual harassment.
Akbar resigned as the Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday. He has been the president of the Editors Guild himself in the past.
Here's the full statement from the guild:
The Editors Guild of India salutes the courage shown by several women journalists in bringing to light instances of how they were sexually harassed. The resignation of Mr M. J Akbar from union council of ministers is a result of these women journalists' courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom.
We hope that Mr Akbar will also display the grace to withdraw the criminal defamation case he has filed against one of these complainants. While Mr Akbar is entitled to all legal instruments available to a citizen to seek vindication, it would be paradoxical for a veteran editor to employ the instrument of criminal defamation. More so for Mr Akbar who happens to be a former president of the Guild.
But if he doesn't, or in case he files such cases against other women too, the Guild offers its support to them. If any of them were to need legal advice or assistance, the Guild will do the best it can to help and also appeal to eminent lawyers to represent them pro bono.
Announcing his resignation on Wednesday, Akbar said, "Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity."
Akbar's resignation came a day after 20 women journalists who worked with him wrote a statement in support of Ramani.
Ramani, one of the first women to accuse Akbar of sexual harassment, said that she and other women felt "vindicated" by Akbar's resignation.
In his defamation suit against Ramani, Akbar had said that the "scandalous allegations leveled" by Ramani were "ex facie defamatory and have not only damaged his goodwill and reputation ...in his social circles and on the political stage, established after years of toil and hard work." The defamation plea said it also ruined Akbar's "personal reputation of in the community, friends, family and colleagues, thereby causing him irreparable loss and tremendous distress."
Ramani had written an article in Vogue in 2017 titled To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, where she recounted her first experience of workplace harassment and later said on Twitter that she was referring to Akbar as the editor who interviewed her in his hotel room.
Akbar, who is still a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, was the founding editor of The Telegraph, launched The Asian Age and has worked in several other media organisations.