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Speaking out Against MJ Akbar Came at a Great Personal Cost, Says Priya Ramani

Journalist Priya Ramani said she could have avoided the subsequent 'targetting' by not speaking up but she did what she did because being silent "would not have been the right thing to do."

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:September 9, 2019, 8:02 PM IST
Speaking out Against MJ Akbar Came at a Great Personal Cost, Says Priya Ramani
File photo of BJP MP MJ Akbar.

New Delhi: Noted journalist Priya Ramani, who is fighting a case of criminal defamation initiated by former Union minister and BJP MP MJ Akbar, said in a court on Monday that she had spoken up against Akbar in the hope that more women are empowered to speak up and not believe silence to be a virtue in matters of sexual harassment.

"It was important... there is a need for women to speak up on sexual harassment. Many of us are brought up to believe that silence is a virtue. In all my disclosure pertaining to Mr Akbar, I’ve spoken truth in public interest... It is my hope that it would empower women to speak up. And to better understand their rights at the workplace,” Ramani said.

She added this case had come at a great personal cost to her and she had decided to speak up despite the fact that she had nothing to gain from it. "This case has come at great personal cost to me. I have nothing to gain from it... I'm a well-regarded respected journalist. I live a quiet life with my family in Bangalore. It’s not easy for any woman to make such disclosures," Ramani said in her deposition before the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal.

She said she could have avoided the subsequent 'targetting' by not speaking up but she did what she did because being silent "would not have been the right thing to do."

Responding to the questions posed by Akbar's lawyer Geeta Luthra, Ramani said it was wrong to suggest that she had made the allegations against Akbar “maliciously, deliberately, in bad faith to malign Mr Akbar”. She also objected to the argument of Akbar’s counsel that she did not make any allegations against him before 2013 “as no such incident ever happened”.

“It is wrong to suggest that I have artificial distinction for purposes of creating a false defence in this defamation case,” Bar and Bench quoted her as saying. “It is wrong to suggest that nowhere in my tweet or article have I made any clarification or explanation that the Vogue article made any distinction between allegations against Mr Akbar and others. It is wrong to suggest that the article and tweets are referring entirely to Mr MJ Akbar.”

On Saturday, during the case hearing, which is going on at Delhi's Rouse Avenue court, Ramani gave her statement about the events of one night 20 years ago when Akbar called her to his hotel room for a job interview. She alleged that Akbar was drunk, got very close to her, sang old Hindi songs sitting next to her, and offered her alcohol, all of which made her fear for her physical safety.

She further said in her testimony that following the wave of sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, an editor at Vogue had asked her to write about her experiences, about such kind of male bosses. She said that she had written in that article about her experiences with Akbar without naming him.

"The article ranged from calling women to hotel room and multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and rape," she continued, "While researching the article I couldn't help but remember my personal story of my first male boss."

But after the #MeToo movement stormed on social media sites, in which many women levelled similar charges against Akbar, "Seeing all these women, I felt compelled to speak up about my experience with Mr MJ Akbar in 1993 and so I removed the anonymity that I had given Mr Akbar in my Vogue article and named him as the editor who had sexually harassed me," Ramani added.

Akbar had previously termed the accusations "false, fabricated and deeply distressing" and stated that he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

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