‘Verdict gives new shield to women’: How newspapers reported MJ Akbar-Priya Ramani case verdict
While English dailies carried it as their main article, regional papers mostly chose to ignore the news on their front pages.
A Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed by former Union minister MJ Akbar. Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement in India in 2018. Following the allegations, Akbar had resigned from the Union Council of Ministers and filed a defamation case against her.
Most Indian English newspapers dedicated a portion of their front pages to the verdict, which was hailed as a landmark judgement. The reportage focussed on how the court highlighted that a woman has the right to “put her grievance even after decades”, while building on the Vishakha guidelines.
Regional dailies mostly chose to ignore the news or carry it either as single column article or in the bottom half of the front page. Bengali dailies such as Anandabazar Patrika, Bartaman and Pratidin did not mention the news on their front pages and instead preferred to concentrate on state politics. Southern papers such as Dinakaran, Dinamani and Hindu Tamil too did not have it on their front pages. Gujarati front pages focused on the news of petrol prices crossing Rs 100.
The Indian Express prominently placed the verdict as its biggest news story. It quoted the court order in its headline that read: “The woman cannot be punished for raising voice against sex abuse”. The article was accompanied with a picture of Ramani with her lawyer Rebecca John after the verdict.
The Times of India ran a straightforward headline that read “Priya Ramani acquitted of defaming M J Akbar” with a section dedicated to what Ramani said after the verdict. The daily also highlighted an observation from the court order where the judge noted that the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to dignity of a woman.
“Case against Priya Ramani rejected,” read the headline in The Hindu. The article briefly detailed the case and noted what the judge said in his verdict. A section on its front page also carried the reaction of senior lawyer Vrinda Grover, who called the judgement “historic”.
The Telegraph, whose founder editor was Akbar himself, ran the news with the headline: “Akbar’s defamation suit tossed out”. It marked how the judge noted that Akbar was not “a man of stellar reputation”. The article also included reactions from Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John. The daily mentioned that the judgement came at a time when defamation charges have been used as a weapon to intimidate journalists and media outlets.
The Hindustan Times gave less space to the news. It carried the article in a single column in the lower half of its front page. With a small picture of Ramani, the headline in capital letters said: “Court acquits Priya Ramani in defamation case filed by MJ Akbar”.
Hindi daily Amar Ujala carried the news on its front page with a headline that said women can speak up about sexual abuse even after decades. Meanwhile, another leading hindi newspaper, Nav Bharat Times, put the news in the lower half of its front page.
In Divya Bhaskar’s Ahmedabad edition, news about Ramani’s acquittal was featured below the fold on page 2, with a quote from the Delhi court in the headline, “Jatayu fought before Ravan for Sita Mata’s honour”, and a sub-headline saying, “Delhi court’s important comment: Crimes against women are taking place in a country where the Mahabharat and Ramayan have already written about respect for women”.
Gujarati daily Sandesh featured a small report on the court’s verdict at the bottom of page 15, with a headline saying, “Shock for MJ Akbar: Court rejects defamation case against Priya Ramani”.
Marathi paper Lokmat had a small and straightforward two-paragraph report on the verdict in its national pages. In Loksatta, a small report on Page 1 said, “Priya Ramani not guilty in defamation case”.