Indian Women's Press Corps issues a joint statement on MJ Akbar
In a Press statement issued by Press Club of India on behalf of journalist organisations, the Minister of State for External Affairs, MJ Akbar, has been asked to step down and face the probe
In the wake of the #MeToo movement and raising deep concerns over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media industry, Indian journalist organisations have demanded an impartial investigation into such issues. In a Press statement issued by Press Club of India on behalf of journalist organisations have asked the Minister of State for External Affairs, MJ Akbar, to step down and face the probe.
Akbar, a former newspaper editor, has been accused by more than a dozen women journalists of sexual harassment. He issued a stern defence of himself through a statement and called them “false, baseless and wild allegations”. He went a step further, and filed a defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first journalist to have spoken up against him. The minister's lawyers mentioned that the posts of Ramani were written with a 'sole ulterior motive of maligning the reputation and political standing of the Complainant, in furtherance of her own vested interests and underlying agenda'.
Many victims and activists expressed shock and disappointment at Akbar’s actions, while multiple journalist organisations issued a statement against the minister’s comments.
Here is the full text of the statement issued by the Press Club of India:
We the undersigned journalist organisations have been deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media. We recognize that sexual harassment at the workplace is a worrisome reality and that media organisations and managements have been unable to put the systems in place which would have ordinarily addressed complaints of sexual harassment.
We are also deeply disappointed at the statement issued by Mr M J Akbar, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs. Wherein he has threatened legal action against all those who have alleged they were harassed by him. Mr. Akbar is a senior functionary of the government and his response should reflect the responsibility that is thus bestowed on him. There can be no dispute about the need for an impartial probe into all the complaints without fear of threat or intimidation to the complainants - and this acquires particular significance if one of the accused is an influential minister in the government. In the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, it would only be appropriate that the minister step down from his post till such time as the inquiry is completed. We are disappointed that Mr. Akbar did not choose to take this step instead of threatening the complainants with legal action.
An impartial probe should be conducted into all the complaints without fear of threat or intimidation to the complainants more so as the accused party is an influential minister in the present government. We also feel that in the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, it is only proper and appropriate that the minister step down from his post till as such time the probe is completed.
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. We hope that employers in media organisations and the government will look into this with the seriousness it deserves and not treat the incidents as motivated complaints.
- Indian Women's Press Corps, South Asian Women in Media, Press Association, Press Club of India
In a recent development, Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Creative Head, Happy mcgarrybowen is now facing allegations of sexual harassment during his stint at JWT. A statement released by Dentsu Aegis Network said -
"Over the weekend, certain incidents have been brought to our notice involving an employee of Happy, which alleged to have occurred during his tenure with his previous employer. We have already initiated an enquiry to verify the same with his previous employer.
Dentsu Aegis Network does not and WILL NOT accept anything but professional behaviour at our workplaces and follows a Code of Conduct that sets a high standard of behaviour we expect of our people. We have a zero tolerance policy towards any kind of harassment at our workplaces and any such incidents that are brought to our attention will be investigated and necessary action will be taken in line with our company policy."
Following the investigation, Dasgupta posted on his Twitter handle:
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