New Delhi: Several media bodies on Monday demanded an "impartial probe" into all allegations of sexual misconduct against Union minister M J Akbar and said he should step down from his post till such an investigation is completed.
Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC), Press Club of India, Press Association and South Asian Women in Media issued a joint statement saying that Akbar is a "senior functionary of the government and his response should reflect the responsibility that is thus bestowed on him".
Allegations against Akbar have been levelled by several women journalists under social media campaign #Metoo against sexual misconduct. The Minister of State for External Affairs has denied the allegations and on Monday filed a private criminal defamation complaint against one of the scribes, Priya Ramani.
"We the undersigned journalist organisations have been deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media," the joint statement said.
"We recognise that sexual harassment at workplace is a worrisome reality and that media organisations and managements have been unable to put the systems in place which would have ordinarily addressed complaints of sexual harassment," the statement said.
The joint statement said 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," it said.
The statement also alleged that sexual harassment at the workplace is a "pervasive phenomenon" and 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 redressal. We hope that employers in media organisations and the government will look into this with the seriousness it deserves and not treat the incidents as motivated complaints," it said.