Journalist Priya Ramani on Monday accused Union Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party member MJ Akbar of attempting to silence women who have accused him of sexual harassment “through intimidation and harassment”. She was responding after Akbar filed a defamation case against her earlier in the day.

On Sunday, Akbar said he would consider legal action against the women who have accused him of sexual harassment. After his return from a foreign trip, Akbar issued a statement in which he called the allegations of misconduct false, fabricated and “spiced up by innuendo and malice”.

Five of a dozen women journalists who have accused Akbar have said that they stand by their allegations even after he threatened legal action.

In a statement shared on Twitter on Monday, Ramani criticised Akbar and those who questioned the timing of the accusations against the minister. “At the time these incidents occurred, the complainant women were working for him,” Ramani said. “It is disingenuous to ask why they have spoken now, as we are well aware of the stigma and shame that sexual crimes inflict upon victims. Rather than cast aspersion on the intent and motives of these women, we must reflect on how to improve the workplace for future generations of men and women.”

On Sunday, Akbar asked why the sexual harassment allegations against him have only come up before the 2019 elections. “Why has this storm risen a few months before the General Election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge,” he had said.

Ramani said Akbar’s recent statement “pays no heed to the trauma and fear of survivors or the courage required to speak the truth”.

She expressed her disappointment that Akbar dismissed the detailed allegations of several women as a “political conspiracy”. Ramani said she was prepared to fight allegations of defamation against her as “truth is my only defence”.