Jour­nal­ists hold # MeToo stir on eve of MJ re­turn

The Asian Age - - Front Page - AGE COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Amid an in­creas­ing clam­our for Union min­is­ter M. J. Ak­bar’s res­ig­na­tion on al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, protests against him in­ten­si­fied on Satur­day — a day be­fore his sched­uled re­turn to In­dia from a for­eign of­fi­cial visit. There are in­di­ca­tions that the BJP is likely to take a clear stand on the is­sue once Mr Ak­bar ex­plains his po­si­tion. Spec­u­la­tion is rife that Mr Ak­bar will hold a press con­fer­ence on Mon­day. A fi­nal call in the mat­ter will be taken by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, party sources said.

Mount­ing pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment, sev­eral jour­nal­ists gath­ered at Par­lia­ment Street in New Delhi on Satur­day to protest

sup­port the against Mr Ak­bar and

# MeToo move­ment.

Scribes gath­ered in front of the Free School Church on Par­lia­ment Street in Lu­tyen’s Delhi and raised slo­gans and held plac­ards say­ing, “It’s ugly but true, sex­ual ha­rass­ment in me­dia is a re­al­ity” and “Me­dia has to show so­ci­ety its truth, not hide its own”.

The pro­test­ers sought im­me­di­ate ac­tion against those fac­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct and de­manded the dis­missal of Mr Ak­bar, who has been ac­cused of sex­ual ha­rass­ment by a num­ber of women jour­nal­ists dur­ing his ten­ure as an ed­i­tor in sev­eral pub­li­ca­tions.

Se­nior jour­nal­ist and In­dian Women’s Press Core ( IWPC) pres­i­dent T. K. Ra­jalak­shmi said, “We would like the gov­ern­ment and all the au­thor­i­ties to take it se­ri­ously and not to dis­miss it as a fad be­cause these are very se­ri­ous is­sues.”

On Ak­bar, she said that of all the names “his name ap­pears to be the most sig­nif­i­cant be­cause of the po­si­tion he oc­cu­pies. With a higher po­si­tion comes higher ac­count­abil­ity,” she main­tained.

Tak­ing on those rais­ing doubts or crit­i­cis­ing the move­ment, a jour­nal­ist pointed out that women were rais­ing the is­sue through so­cial me­dia, “be­cause the sys­tem has failed them”. Pro­test­ers also said that the cases sur­fac­ing in­di­cate that in­ter­nal com­plaints com­mit­tees ( ICCs) “are ei­ther not there or not ef­fec­tive in me­dia Or­gan­i­sa­tions”. An­other jour­nal­ist said, “If some women have come out af­ter 25 years we should at least lis­ten to them and try to help them. When women com­plain about such is­sues, it should be taken se­ri­ously and the vic­tim should not be named and shamed.”

A joint res­o­lu­tion was also passed seek­ing jus­tice for the vic­tims.

Be­sides mem­bers of the In­dian Women’s Press Corps ( IWPC), jour­nal­ists from some print and elec­tronic me­dia as­sem­bled de­manded proper im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment of Women at Work­place ( Preven­tion, Pro­hi­bi­tion and Re­dres­sal) Act.

BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah had on Fri­day bro­ken his si­lence on the # MeToo storm and said that the charges against Mr Ak­bar will be ex­am­ined. He, how­ever, added that the ve­rac­ity of com­plaints against him may also need check­ing.

The ju­nior for­eign min­is­ter, who has been on an of­fi­cial trip abroad, has so far not re­sponded to the charges.

Party sources have said that the charges against him are se­ri­ous, and his con­tin­u­ance as a min­is­ter is no longer guar­an­teed.

There is also a view within the party that there is no le­gal case against him, and al­le­ga­tions per­tain to a time long be­fore he be­came a min­is­ter.

Mul­ti­ple women in the last few days have of­fered their ac­counts of al­leged sex­ual ha­rass­ment by Mr Ak­bar as the # MeToo move­ment swept so­cial me­dia, bring­ing to fore sor­did tales of sex­ual ha­rass­ment by in­flu­en­tial men in dif­fer­ent walks of lives.

While the BJP has largely kept mum, some woman min­is­ters in the Modi gov­ern­ment have lent their sup­port to the # MeToo move­ment with­out tak­ing a stand on the charges against Mr Ak­bar.

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