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Journalists call out MJ Akbar's newsroom re-entry through 'WION'

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Journalists call out MJ Akbars newsroom re-entry through WION
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New Delhi: The reported hiring of former editor and Union minister, MJ Akbar, to WION, an English news channel under Zee Media, has enraged the journalists' fraternity that wrote an open letter against the return to the newsroom of MJ who has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.

His return to the newsroom had first been reported by news portal Newslaundry. Though Zee Media has not yet made his hiring official, he is reported to have been attending the editorial meetings.

The open letter in which over 150 journalists are signatories has also urged the Editors Guild to take a stand over the matter considering the nature of the crime MJ has been accused of committing.

Over 20 women journalists have come out against MJ, accusing him of sexual harassment and misconduct during the MeToo movement in 2018 when he was a Union Minister in the first Modi government, forcing him to resign.

He had also filed a defamation case against Priya Ramani, one of the journalists who had publicly spoken against him. A Delhi court acquitted Priya in the defamation case in February this year. The letter said that MJ's induction into the newsroom will send a wrong message.

The Letter by the journalists below:

9 September 2021

We the undersigned call upon WION to stop MJ Akbar from being employed in its newsroom. We also call upon the Editors Guild to take up this matter.

There should be no room for sexual harassment and sexual harassers at workplaces. Journalists are in the business of speaking out. By allowing someone accused by multiple people of sexual harassment in its newsroom, WION and Zee TV are violating the responsibility they have to journalists who carry out the important mission of informing the public.

MJ Akbar has not just sued a fellow journalist for speaking out but filed a complaint of criminal defamation effectively seeking to put a fellow woman journalist behind bars. By choosing to employ MJ Akbar, WION is failing journalists and ignoring the traumatic experiences of more than 20 women who have courageously spoken out about MJ Akbar's despicable misuse of power.

Our message to WION and others is that by putting MJ Akbar in a position of power will have a chilling effect of silencing its own and other journalists against abuse.

In 2013, India adopted a law that calls for the prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment of women at workplace. It calls for women to have the right to work with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment work free from sexual harassment.

How will India's news media report sexual misconduct and hold others accountable when it doesn't hold such standards on its own?

The undersigned call upon all media houses to make our newsrooms safe. We also call upon the Editors Guild of India, which suspended MJ Akbar in 2018, to ask every news organization to bar him from its newsrooms because a clear, meaningful message needs to be sent out to young female journalists that the Guild is committed to ensuring a safe working space for them where they are respected and encouraged to speak up.

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TAGS:WION MJ Akbar Sexual harassment 
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