MJ Akbar is a ‘thorough gentleman’: Witness tells court in MeToo case
Joyeeta Basu, the editor of Sunday Guardian, said on Monday journalist Priya Ramani posted all her tweets “intentionally with a purpose to harm” former Union minister MJ Akbar’s “reputation and goodwill”.
Basu was one of the first witnesses to testify in the case of criminal defamation complaint filed by Akbar against Ramani, the first woman to accuse him of sexual harassment, with the additional chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal in the Patiala House district court.
She said she has worked with Akbar for 20 years and had not heard anything untoward from the staff of the organisation where they worked together. He was a public figure who was held in high esteem, she said.
“I have always held Mr Akbar in high regard. He has been perfectly professional in his dealings with me. He has always been a tough taskmaster, a thorough professional and a brilliant teacher,” she testified in the court.
“I considered him to be a brilliant journalist, a scholarly writer and a thorough gentleman with an impeccable reputation in my eyes,” she said.
Akbar stepped down as the minister of state for external affairs in October after Ramani and a number of other women accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour at various stages of his journalistic career.
The 67-year-old former editor responded by suing Ramani, who sparked off the barrage of allegations, for criminal defamation in a Delhi court. Dismissing all the allegations, the former editor of The Telegraph, Deccan Chronicle and The Asian Age newspapers, had said that these were “malicious, fabricated and salacious” intended to harm his reputation.
Ramani has said she is “ready to fight allegations of defamation laid against me, as truth and the absolute truth is my only defence”.
Basu said in her testimony that she was “shocked, disappointed, embarrassed” after she read the tweet by Ramani on October 8, 2018, and looked at the link of her article in Vogue magazine. “In spite of my experience with him, his reputation, his image took a beating in my eyes on reading the tweet/article,” Basu said.
“It was aggravated during my interaction with friends and colleagues. Whoever read and heard about the widely publicised tweet/article and asked me whether he was really like that,” she said.
Those people questioned his character and said that Akbar’s image had taken a severe beating in their eyes, she said, and his reputation had been permanently damaged.
“I may have overcome my doubt but the number of questions raised by people I know personally that his reputation has been hurt and damaged irrevocably,” Basu said.
The court summoned another witness Habibur Rehman to testify for the next date of hearing on December 7. There are six witnesses, including Basu and Rehman.
Akbar has also been accused of rape by Pallavi Gogoi, the chief business editor of National Public Radio (NPR), a Washington-based American media organisation. She detailed the “most painful memories” of her life in an article in The Washington Post, accusing Akbar, the editor-in-chief of the Asian Age newspaper at that time, of using his position to prey on her 23 years ago.