The MJ Akbar playbook: Men look back at how he preyed on women colleagues in newsrooms and got away

It’s a case that is being described as “India’s Women vs MJ Akbar”. Beginning with veteran journalist Priya Ramani, 16 women have gone public this month with sexual harassment allegations against former Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar. After Akbar filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani, 17 more women who worked in a newspaper he had founded put out a statement accusing the journalist-turned-politician of encouraging a culture of misogyny and harassment. In the outpouring, one set of voices has been largely missing: where are the men?

The stories of Akbar’s predatory behaviour that have now emerged span three decades. They start with The Telegraph, a newspaper he founded in 1982, grow more frequent during his years at The Asian Age, another paper he established, and spill all the way into his last journalistic job at the India Today, which ended in 2014. Over the course of his decades in journalism, Akbar worked with numerous men and women. If everyone knew about his behaviour, how come no one brought it up earlier? And why, even now, does it seem like it is largely the women who are speaking up about what Akbar did?

Reported for this story on MJ Akbar, an editor outed in India’s #MeToo protests, for this report by my fab colleague Rohan Venkataramakrishnan.

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