Indian journalists ask External Affairs Minister M J Akbar to resign to face sexual harassment probe

While raising deep concerns over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media, the Indian journalist organizations have demanded an impartial investigation into such issues, and also asked the Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar to step down and face the probe.

“We recognize that sexual harassment at the workplace is a worrisome reality and that media organizations and managements have been unable to put the systems in place which would have ordinarily addressed complaints of sexual harassment,” said a statement issued by the Press Club of India on behalf of journalist organizations including Indian Women’s Press Corps, South Asian Women in Media, and Press Association.

M J Akbar threatened legal action against accusers

The journalist organizations also voiced disappointment at the statement issued by M J Akbar wherein he threatened legal action against all those who had alleged they were harassed by him.

“M J 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,” the statement said.

“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,” it added.

Indian journalists asks External Affairs Minister M J Akbar to resign to face sexual harassment probe
Indian Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar

The statement further said that 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.”

The journalist organizations were of the view that 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 organizations and the government will look into this with the seriousness it deserves and not treat the incidents as motivated complaints,” the statement added.