#MeToo: MJ Akbar 'a thorough gentleman', woman journalist says in court

File photo of MJ Akbar. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Nov 12, 2018, 05.35 PM (IST)

A woman journalist and former colleague of MJ Akbar's came to his defence Monday, telling a Delhi court that Akbar was "a thorough journalist". 

Joyeeta Basu, the editor of the Sunday Guardian, said she had worked with Akbar for 20 years and had not heard anything "untoward" from the staff of the organisation where they worked together. 

Akbar is a founder editor of the Sunday Guardian. 

He resigned as India's minister of state for external affairs after a multitude of women accused him of sexual misconduct, harassment, assault and rape

Akbar has sued the journalist Priya Ramani for criminal defamation — the case the court was hearing on Monday — saying she was the first one to name him. 

Interestingly, Ramani herself had not accused Akbar of harassment, assault, or rape. She had written an article in Vogue magazine in October 2017 about her first job interview with Akbar which he conducted in a Mumbai hotel room. 

Ramani did not name Akbar in the article. 

She named him after she reposted the article on Twitter in October this year. This was after the actor Tanushree Dutta kicked of India's own #MeToo movement.  

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The accusations against Akbar tumbled out of the closet after that. 

Akbar has not sued any of the women who have actually accused him of harassment, assault, or rape. 

"I have seen tweets by Priya Ramani dated October 10, 2018 and October 13, 2018. I have overcome my doubts but I know from the number of questions raised by people, I know personally that his reputation has been destroyed and damaged irreparably," Basu told the court on Monday. 

"After reading these tweets by Ramani, I believe that this vilification was conducted and the tweets were published intentionally by Ramani with a purpose to harm Akbar's good reputation and goodwill in the eyes of society," she added.  

"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," Basu said.

She added that she considered Akbar to be "a brilliant journalist, a scholarly writer and a thorough gentleman with an impeccable reputation". 

Basu said that she was "shocked, disappointed, embarrassed" to see Ramani's tweets against Akbar and "in spite of my experience with him, his image, his reputation took a beating in my eyes on reading these tweet/article".

"It was aggravated during my interaction with friends and colleagues who had read and heard about the widely publicised tweets and articles and asked me whether he was really like that? They questioned his character and said that his image has taken a severe beating and had been lowered in their eyes. They said that his reputation had been permanently damaged as far as they were concerned," she added. 

(With inputs from PTI)
 

Story highlights

Joyeeta Basu, the editor of the Sunday Guardian, said she had worked with Akbar for 20 years and had not heard anything "untoward" from the staff of the organisation where they worked together. Akbar is a founder editor of the Sunday Guardian.