Central minister and former journalist MJ Akbar named in ‘Me Too’ movement

Several women have come forward with allegations that Akbar behaved inappropriately with them, and followed a pattern of interviewing women in hotel rooms.
Central minister and former journalist MJ Akbar named in ‘Me Too’ movement
Central minister and former journalist MJ Akbar named in ‘Me Too’ movement
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The Indian media’s #MeToo moment has now reached the shores of the central government. Minister of State for External Affairs and former founding editor of The Telegraph MJ Akbar has been accused of inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment by multiple women online. In a pattern that can be seen in all these accounts, Akbar has been accused of interviewing women journalists in hotel rooms, and asking them to “sit on the bed” during the interview, making them feel extremely uncomfortable.

One of the first allegations against Akbar came from journalist Priya Ramani, who had written a post a year ago about a ‘male editor’ who behaved inappropriately, although she hadn’t named him then. On Monday, Priya revealed on Twitter that she was referring to MJ Akbar in her October 2017 article in Vogue. The account, titled Dear Male Boss, was about an incident in 1994 when the unnamed man (now revealed to be MJ Akbar) interviewed her in a plush south Mumbai hotel, offered her a drink that she refused, and asked her to sit next to him on the bed.

Priya also alleged that he sang her romantic Hindi songs after enquiring after her musical preferences during the interview. She also talked about the nature of power and power dynamics in professional spaces, how she continued working with Akbar for several years but swore never to be alone in a room with him ever again. She ended her 2017 account in Vogue with the sentence, “We’ll get you all one day.”

On Monday, she tweeted that the person she had referred to in her piece was MJ Akbar.

As has been the pattern in many of the allegations coming out over the last week, once Priya accused MJ Akbar, several other individuals came forward in the comments on Priya’s tweet to share their experience of having endured or heard of his inappropriate workplace behaviour.

Social media commentators in the comments on Priya's tweet have called for the Minister to resign in the face of these allegations.

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