Journalist Priya Ramani on Saturday told a Delhi court that her tweet about former Union Minister MJ Akbar, which he has described as “defamatory”, was an attempt to highlight his “sexually-coloured behaviour”, PTI reported. Ramani made the remarks as she testified before the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal in connection with the criminal defamation case brought against her by Akbar.

“I used the word ‘predator’ to emphasise and highlight the difference in age, influence and power between Akbar and myself,” Ramani told the court. “I was a young journalist, he was a famous editor, 20 years older than me, who called me to his bedroom in a hotel for a job interview. A predator is more powerful than his prey.” She also narrated the sequence of events of the night in 1993 when she had gone to visit Akbar, who was then the editor of a newspaper. She said that Akbar asked her personal questions and offered an alcoholic drink.

On Saturday, she told the court that she felt compelled to identify Akbar after seeing other women accusing him of sexual harassment. “I said I never named him because he didn’t “do” anything. I used the inverted commas to denote sarcasm,” Bar and Bench quoted Ramani as saying.

She said that sexual harassment could be physical or verbal but by saying that Akbar did not “do” anything, she had tried to point out that there was no “overt act” but that did not excuse his behaviour. The journalist also pointed out tweets posted by other women, all of which highlighted their sexual harassment experiences with Akbar.

“My tweet was to highlight the fact that we normalise sexual misconduct and unless it results in physical assault, we do not take it seriously,” she said. After her tweet, Ramani said that 20 women, who worked at the media organisation where Akbar was an editor, had written a statement saying that they would testify on the journalist’s behalf, according to Live Law.

The case

Ramani had first made allegations about an incident of sexual harassment by an acclaimed newspaper editor in an article in Vogue India in 2017. She identified MJ Akbar as that editor in October 2018. Soon after this, around 20 more women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career. In February, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000.

On May 20, Akbar had denied meeting Ramani in a hotel room where she alleged he had sexually harassed her. He denied all information about the meeting that Ramani had narrated, such as that he sang songs to her or that he asked her personal questions.

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