Journalist Priya Ramani testifies in Delhi court
Journalist Priya Ramani told a Delhi court on Saturday that she tweeted about her experience of sexual harassment allegedly by former Union minister MJ Akbar, after seeing other women tweet about similar experiences.
Akbar, who resigned from his position as minister of state for external affairs in November 2018 after a host of women accused him of sexual misconduct during the Me Too movement, filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani last year. He has denied Ramani’s allegations.
Akbar’s complaint refers to two tweets written by Ramani on October 8 and 10, 2018.
In the first tweet, she quoted a 2017 article she wrote in the magazine Vogue, titled ‘To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world’, in which she described her first job interview conducted by an older male editor in a five star hotel room in Mumbai. Ramani did not name the editor in the article.
“I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator — maybe they’ll share,” Ramani tweeted on October 8.
On October 10, Ramani tagged other women journalists who had similarly described the harassment that they had faced while working under Akbar, who has been the editor of various newspapers and magazines.
Ramani, who recorded her statement as a defence witness on Saturday, described what transpired during the purported interview, and how she came to write the article and the tweets.
“I said I never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. I used inverted commas to denote sarcasm. Sexual harassment can take any form. It can be physical or verbal. By saying that he didn’t ‘do’ anything, I was honestly disclosing that there was no overt act but that did not excuse Mr. Akbar’s sexually coloured behaviour,” Ramani told the court on Saturday.
“I used the word ‘predator’ to emphasize and highlight the difference in age, influence and power between Akbar and myself. I was a young journalist, he was a famous editor, 20 years older than me, who called me to his bedroom in a hotel for a job interview,” Ramani added.
However, Akbar has denied the incident.
“Since there was no meeting, therefore it is wrong to suggest that I did not ask Priya Ramani about her writing skills, her knowledge of current affairs, or her ability to enter the world of journalism. Since I did not meet her on that day, I do not know whether she felt unnerved by my behaviour,” Akbar had said in court in May.
The matter will be heard on Monday.