#JusticeForRohith: Why the movement is not well-covered in the media?

Written by: Maitreyee Boruah

Hyderabad, May 12: A cursory look at the Facebook page of the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice --University of Hyderabad (UoH), Hyderabad-is enough to tell us that their fight for justice for Rohith Vemula and the demand for the removal of vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile are far from over.

The Joint Action Committee for Social Justice is the main force spearheading the justice for the Rohith movement.

Justice for Rohith Vemula

Then where is the news? The mainstream national media has been accused of holding a myopic view when events occur far away from the Lutyens' Delhi. What about the regional media? Why the local television channels and the print media, which generally lap up "high voltage drama", maintained a studied distance from the agonies of the students?

One of the prime reasons cited by the Hyderabad journalist fraternity and close observers of politics is the dominance of upper caste editors and reporters in newsrooms.

"The media in Hyderabad is highly casteist. The news rooms are full of people belonging to upper castes like Reddys, Kammas and Kapus, like the Telugu film industry. The students of the university are fighting against caste-based discrimination, so obviously they would face resistance in the form of censorship of news concerning students' anti-Dalit movement," said a Hyderabad-based reporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The caste biases in newsrooms are open secrets in Hyderabad, especially among the journalists. However, no one talks about it to avoid antagonizing the biggies controlling the newsrooms. There are many instances when news reports covering issues related to the Dalits have been disapproved by the editors.

Justice for Rohith Vemula

Of course, all these accusations against the managements and the senior editors of practicing caste-based discrimination remain mostly allegations only, as nobody can prove them, say Hyderabad journalists.
But, to blame the "casteist media" entirely for the lack of coverage of news from UoH, unlike JNU, would also not be fair. Experts say several factors are behind it. Initially, after the suicide of Rohith, the entire agitation was well-documented by the media.

Even few journalists attached with English newspapers from Delhi and Bengaluru camped in the university to understand the students' agitation against rampant caste biases in the higher education system. The coverage took a nosedive after students allegedly ransacked the office and residence of the vice-chancellor Podile when he resumed his duty in the later part of March.

The decision of the university to block media from entering inside the campus put a blanket ban on the coverage. In spite, of the media ban, few journalists took the extra-effort to stand outside the gate of the university for long hours to get information. Slowly, the ban tested the patience of the media contingent that decided to move ahead with other developing news.

The ban on the internet inside the campus also proved detrimental for the information to pass across the guarded gates of the university.

The students were earlier constantly informing the media about every development, which fizzled out. There is also a popular theory floating in the media circle in Hyderabad, as the university is located 28 kms away from the city, many journalists found it hard to commute such a long distance to cover news.

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