Akbar made me feel unsafe, Ramani tells court

New Delhi: A Delhi Court on Friday concluded the recording of statement of journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed against her by former Union minister M.J. Akbar.

The statement was recorded before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Samar Vishal who after recording the statements posted the matter for defence evidence on September 7.

In her statement, Ramani said, “I was 23 when the complainant (M.J. Akbar), the editor of the soon-to-be-launched Asian Age newspaper called me to his hotel for a job interview. When I got there I expected the interview to be in the lobby or the coffee shop, but Akbar insisted that I come up to his room. I was young, it was my first job interview, I did not know that I could refuse, I did not know that I could set the terms of my interview.”

She added, “When I reached his room, it was an intimate space essentially his bedroom and I was deeply uncomfortable and felt unsafe at Mr Akbar’s repeated inappropriate personal questions, his offer of an alcoholic beverage, his loud singing of songs and his invitation to sit close to him. Later that night, I called my friend Nilofer Venkatrama and told her what had happened.

“It is false that my tweets affected Akbar’s reputation. I spoke the truth and there was no deliberate attempt to harm Akbar’s reputation,” she said.

Responding to question on the case against her, she said, “This is a false and malicious case filed to create a chilling effect among all the women who spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr Akbar.

“It is an attempt to intimidate me by deliberately targeting me. Akbar seeks to divert attention from the serious allegations of sexual misconduct against him and the public outrage that followed,” she said.

During the course, she also said her allegations were not against Akbar’s reputation as a writer or an author. “My allegations related to being sexually harassed and his conduct as an editor of a daily newspaper. My words were not false or offensive,” she added.

The court was hearing a criminal defamation complaint filed by Akbar against the journalist for accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Following the allegations, the then Minister for State (MoS) Foreign Affairs had to quit the post.