One more journalist has accused Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar of sexually harassing her while she was an intern at The Asian Age newspaper in 2007, HuffPost India reported on Friday. The woman was 18 at the time of the alleged incident
At least eight journalists have so far accused Akbar of sexually harassing them in the past. Akbar has been the editor of prominent newspapers like The Telegraph, Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian. He is now a member of the Rajya Sabha from the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In the latest allegation, Majlie de Puy Kamp alleged that Akbar forcibly kissed her on the last day of her internship at the newspaper at his office. “What he did was disgusting, he violated my boundaries, betrayed my trust and that of my parents,” Kamp told HuffPost India in an e-mail. She had met Akbar through her parents who were foreign correspondents in India in the 1990s.
HuffPost India verified the woman’s account by reviewing emails between her father and Akbar following the alleged incident, and in interviews with three people who spoke to her after the incident.
The woman’s father wrote to Akbar soon after she returned to the United States. In the e-mail, he said his daughter had informed him right after the incident. “...I also have to add that the way you “said goodbye” to my 18-year-old daughter was not exactly as I would expect a friend to do,” he said.
In his reply, Akbar said he was “shocked” and “dumbfounded”. He said such issues were “prone to misunderstanding” and apologised.
The woman, who is a journalist based in New York now, said she never felt the need to speak about the incident because “it had little effect on my life”. “The reason I’m saying this now, and the reason I’m attaching my name to it mostly has to do with being a journalist myself,” she said. “...if I, living in a foreign country far from MJ Akbar’s reach and influence, can’t bring myself to speak up now – I couldn’t do my job with integrity going forward.”
A journalist in Mumbai, who joined The Asian Age in Mumbai in 2004, has alleged that Akbar harassed her inside and outside the newsroom. “He’s extremely schizophrenic,” the journalist said. “He can be equally brilliant but then there is the side of him being driven by hormones. There were no nuances with MJ Akbar. It was sexual harassment through and through.”
A journalist in Delhi, who was in her twenties when Akbar was the editor The Sunday Guardian in 2014, said it was common knowledge that Akbar stared at the breasts of his reporters at weekly meetings.
Another journalist, who was in her twenties during the 2000s, said Akbar forcibly kissed her during a meeting at a hotel in Mumbai. She continued to work at The Asian Age despite the incident. “There is no end to his vindictiveness,” she said. “I don’t think even Harvey Weinstein has hurt so many women as MJ Akbar.”
The Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Samajwadi Party and other parties have demanded a reply from Akbar to the sexual harassment allegations against him, or that he step down from his position.