The Editors Guild of India announced on Wednesday that it has suspended former Union minister MJ Akbar and former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal “in light of the charges of sexual misconduct levelled against them”. Akbar, a former journalist, has been a dormant member for several years.
The guild said that it had sought the views of its executive committee on the action that should be taken against Akbar, Tejpal as well as former editor Gautam Adhikari. “A majority of the EC [executive committee] members suggested that the membership of Akbar should be suspended,” the Guild said in a statement. “There was also consensus that Tejpal be suspended too, until the conclusion of his trial and the Guild should write to Adhikari to seek his response.” Office-bearers of the Guild agreed with this decision, it said.
In October, journalist Priya Ramani and several other women had accused Akbar of sexual misconduct during his time as a prominent editor years ago. Akbar filed a defamation case against Ramani in October. Though nearly 20 women have so far accused him of sexual misconduct, the former minister has called all the allegations “wild”, “baseless” and a “sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe”. Akbar also hinted that there was a political motivation for the sexual harassment allegations as they have come up months ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He stepped down as the minister of state for external affairs after the allegations.
Tejpal is accused of raping a junior colleague in 2013 in a hotel lift at an annual event organised by the magazine in Goa. In September 2017, a trial court had charged Tejpal with rape, sexual harassment and wrongful restraint. It is currently hearing the case. He had pleaded not guilty in court. Earlier, in an internal email, he had claimed the incident had been a “lapse of judgment”.
Three women journalists have accused Adhikari of forcibly kissing them while he was the editor of DNA and The Times of India. He had claimed he did not “recall” any of the alleged incidents. “I retired from the media industry many years ago and have no recollection of this incident,” Adhikari told The Wire in an email on October 6. “I always treated my former colleagues fairly and politely and this person was no exception I would think. I’m sorry if I have ever been unintentionally impolite to anyone but I do not recall such lapses from respectful behaviour towards all.” Adhikari has since left the post of senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Since October 5, several women have taken to social media to give detailed accounts of the sexual harassment and misconduct they have faced across several sectors such as advertising, Tamil and Hindi film industries, the field of arts, music and dance, publishing, journalism, sports, religion and non-profit organisations.