New Delhi, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — M.J. Akbar, India's junior external affairs minister, resigned Wednesday amid accusations by 20 women of sexual harassment during his previous career as one of the country's most prominent news editors, becoming the most powerful man to fall in India's burgeoning #MeToo movement.
Akbar said in a statement that he would "challenge false accusations" in a personal capacity, referring to a criminal case he filed Monday against the first woman to accuse him.
Akbar, 67, first served as a lawmaker for India's then-ruling India National Congress party between 1989 and 1991. He then edited The Telegraph, The Asian Age and other newspapers and wrote several books of nonfiction, becoming one of the most influential people in the Indian news media.
He returned to public life in March 2014, when he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and was appointed national spokesman during the 2014 election that brought the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power.
Akbar maintained a low profile after joining India's Ministry of External Affairs in July 2016 as its junior minister, representing India overseas at multinational conferences.
On Wednesday he thanked Modi, who had remained silent about the allegations, for the opportunity to serve in public office.
In India's deeply conservative society, the #MeToo movement began belatedly but has picked up steam in recent weeks. Since September, Indian actresses and writers have flooded social media with allegations of sexual harassment and assault by their superiors and colleagues.
The string of accusations against Akbar began when journalist Priya Ramani identified him on Twitter on Oct. 8 as the unnamed editor that she had described in a story about newsroom sexual harassment published in Vogue last year.
Other women in media have alleged that Akbar interviewed job candidates in hotel rooms at night; groped, massaged and forcibly kissed young interns and employees; and offered young women choice out-of-town postings so that he could go visit them there.
On Sunday, returning from an official visit to West Africa, Akbar denied the allegations as "false, baseless and wild."
The following day, dozens of members of the Congress Party's youth wing clashed with police outside Akbar's New Delhi home, demanding his resignation.
Akbar then filed a criminal case against Ramani and released a statement in which he questioned his accusers' motives.
"Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election," he asked.
Modi is hoping to remain in power in elections due early next year.
On Tuesday, 20 women signed a statement asking the court hearing Akbar's case against Ramani to allow them to give their own testimonies against him.
Ramini wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: "As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court #MeToo"
Arti Jerath, a journalist and political commentator who is not among Akbar's accusers, said his resignation should have come earlier.
"The fact that he chose to brazen it out, he became an embarrassment to himself and an embarrassment to the government," she said. "I am glad that he is finally gone."
Yangon, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Three detained journalists appeared in a Myanmar court on Wednesday to face charges filed against them by the Yangon city government, which alleges a story they published was false.
An increasing number of journalists have been arrested and jailed for their work under Myanmar's civilian government, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner.
The senior journalists for local Eleven Media Group were arrested Oct. 9 after publishing a story alleging fund mismanagement by Yangon government officials.
A director in the Yangon city government filed a complaint saying the journalists — editor in chief Kyaw Zaw Lin, managing editor Nari Min and chief reporter Phyo Wai Win — violated a law banning publication of "incorrect information" that could cause "fear or alarm to the public." Punishment under the law can include two years' imprisonment and a fine.
Human Rights Watch called for the charges to be withdrawn.
"By arresting these three journalists for simply doing their job to investigate and report on possible Yangon municipal malfeasance, the Myanmar government shows how little it respects freedom of the press," said Phil Robertson, the human rights group's deputy Asia director. "Democracy is in deep trouble in Myanmar if officials can get reporters tossed in prison any time they ask a tough question. The government should order the prosecutor to withdraw the charges, and cease its harassment of the media."
Journalists from Eleven Media have been arrested in the past for investigating corruption by high-ranking politicians. In 2016, its chief executive and chief editor were detained after publishing an opinion piece on corrupt officials. Those charges were eventually dropped.
Recent jailings of journalists in Myanmar include Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this year. They had been reporting on the military's operations against minority Rohingya Muslims and were accused of possessing secret documents.
"The decline of press freedom in Myanmar is alarming," said Matthew Smith, the head of human rights group Fortify Rights. "With each imprisoned journalist, the authorities dig the country deeper into an authoritarian pit."
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay could not be reached for comment.
The next court appearance for the three Eleven Media journalists is expected on Oct. 26, when the Yangon government complainant, Kyaw Aung Khaing, is required to produce the original government documents that were written about in the Eleven Media story.
Lahore, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — A man convicted of killing eight children was executed at a Pakistani prison early Wednesday after the country's top court rejected a request for his public hanging, officials said.
Mohammad Imran was hanged in the eastern city of Lahore in the presence of the father of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari, whose rape and murder in January ignited nationwide outrage. Imran was arrested two weeks after he threw the body into a garbage dump in the city of Kasur in Punjab province.
After his arrest, Imran confessed to the other slayings and was convicted by a court. Other courts later upheld his death sentence.
In this Jan. 23, 2018, file photo, Chief Minister of Pakistan's Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif, second from right, addresses a news conference with Mohammed Amin Ansari, third from right, father of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari, who was raped and killed, in Lahore, Pakistan.
"Imran was taken to the gallows just before dawn and he has been hanged with a rope in the presence of magistrate and a doctor," local police official Mohammad Afzal said. Zainab's father, Mohammed Amin Ansari, was allowed to witness the execution.
Ansari had demanded that Imran should be hanged at some public place in order to deter others, but the judges rejected his plea this week. Shortly after witnessing Imran's execution, Ansari thanked the judiciary, government and investigators for giving them speedy justice.
"My daughter will not come back, but I am satisfied that we got justice," he said.
Authorities handed over the body of Imran to his family and he was expected to be buried later Wednesday.
In this Feb. 7, 2018, file photo, Pakistani police commandos escort a police van carrying Mohammad Imran, who is accused of the brutal killings of eight children in the eastern city of Kasur, as it arrives at an anti-terrorist court, in Lahore, Pakistan.
Zainab's rape and murder shocked the nation after a photo of her went viral on social media, showing the smiling girl in her favorite bright pink coat, with a pink barrette in her hair. Pakistanis rallied across the country, demanding the immediate arrest of the killer.
Ansari was on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia with his wife at the time of his daughter's disappearance.
His daughter disappeared while going to a nearby home for Quranic studies.
Dhaka, Oct 16 (UNB) - The Congress had set up a three-member committee to look into the issue after a woman levelled charges of sexual harassment against the chief of its youth wing.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has accepted the resignation of NSUI national president Fairoz Khan after charges of sexual harassment surfaced against him, PTI quoted Congress sources as saying, reports The Indian Express.
Khan, who hails from Jammu and Kashmir, resigned from the post of the Congress student wing president on Monday after a woman Congress worker from Chhattisgarh levelled charges of sexual harassment against him amid the ongoing #MeToo movement.
The party had set up a three-member committee to look into the issue. Khan, while denying the charges on him, said the allegations are hurting the party’s image and hence he would like to step down from the post.
The woman had first complained against Khan in June. She had met Rahul Gandhi and other senior members of the party, demanding strict action against the youth wing president. She had also accused Khan of sexually harassing her sister and some other women from the party. She also lodged a complaint against him in the Parliament Street police station, saying that she feared for her life.
The allegations on Khan have come at a time when Congress is actively seeking the Centre’s response to sexual harassment allegations over Union minister MJ Akbar. The opposition party has attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for keeping quiet about the allegations against Akbar and has demanded the latter’s resignation.
Kabul, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — An Afghan official says a Taliban attack on a security outpost in northern Samangan province has killed seven policemen, including a deputy provincial police chief.
The provincial governor, Abdul Latif Ibrahimi, says the attack occurred late on Monday in Dari Suf district.
Ibrahimi told The Associated Press on Tuesday that another five policemen were wounded in the attack. He says the attackers made away with two armored personnel carriers, a police vehicle and an ambulance.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but in recent months, the Taliban have staged near-daily attacks on Afghan forces across the country.
On Saturday night, the Taliban attacked an army base in western Afghanistan, killing 17 Afghan soldiers and abducting 11. They also overran two checkpoints near the base, seizing weapons and ammunition.