Spoke the truth against M J Akbar: Priya Ramani

New Delhi: Journalist Priya Ramani, against whom former Union Minister and Editor M J Akbar has filed a defamation case, told a Delhi court on Friday that she spoke the truth in her tweets levelling sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Ramani, who appeared before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Samar Vishal to record her statement in the matter, said, “It is false that my tweets affected Akbar’s reputation and I spoke the truth. My tweets were not deeply offensive or spun out of lies…My allegations are true.”

“I was 23 when the complainant (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,” she said.

“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,” Ramani added.

“When I reached his room, it was an intimate space, essentially his bedroom, and I was deeply uncomfortable and felt unsafe at 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 and told her what had happened,” she said.

The journalist said that the defamation case filed against her is “false and malicious to create a chilling effect among all the women who spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar”.
“It is an attempt to intimidate me by deliberately targetting me…”, Ramani further said.

The court then posted the matter for defence evidence on September 7.
Ramani had on April 10 pleaded not guilty before the court and claimed trial after the court framed defamation charges against her on a criminal complaint of Akbar.

In one of the previous hearings, the ACMM had also granted a permanent exemption to Ramani from personal appearance in the hearings to follow.
In February, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000. She was the first woman to accuse Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo campaign.

Rejecting all the allegations against him, Akbar had filed a defamation case against the journalist for accusing him of sexual misconduct. The allegations levelled against him forced him to resign from the Union Cabinet on October 17, 2018.