New Delhi: M J Akbar attended official meetings on Monday and Tuesday as the junior external affairs minister after returning from a trip abroad, the ministry said Thursday, in first comments on the issue. At a press conference, MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, replying to a question, said he was not aware of any specific meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Akbar on the allegations levelled against him.
Akbar, a former journalist, stepped down Wednesday in the face of mounting pressure following a spate of allegations of sexual harassment against him by several women journalists. He was on a trip to Africa when the allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him as part of the #MeToo movement in India.
Hours after returning home on Sunday, he issued a statement trashing the allegations. However, he quit following increasing pressure on him as more women came out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by him. Asked whether it was his own decision to quit or whether Swaraj or Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent any communication to him to resign, Kumar only said, “The minister has resigned. He has also issued a statement and I think beyond that I have nothing to add.”
“As far as meeting is concerned, I can only share with you that since he has returned to India, there were certain officials meetings in the MEA on Monday and Tuesday. He was part of those meetings. But I am not aware of any specific meeting between the external affairs minister and the MoS on this matter,” Kumar said. He did not reply when asked whether Akbar was asked to resign.
Over the past 10 days, at least 20 women have have come forward to narrate their experiences of alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar during his days as editor of several mainstream publications. Following these allegations, opposition parties as well as many media organisations have been demanding his resignation.
Akbar on Monday filed a criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, who accuse him of sexual misconduct.
In his complaint, Akbar accused Ramani of “wilfully” and “maliciously” making imputations against him with the ulterior motive of maligning his reputation and political standing. A Delhi court Thursday took judicial note of Akbar’s complaint and decided to record his statement on October 31 in the case.