Journalists hold # MeToo stir on eve of MJ return
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.