Hyderabad University Administration Reiterates ‘Media Blackout’

Minutes of a deans committee meeting from HCU recommends a security “vigil” against the possible entry of journalists.

First page of the minutes of the HCU deans committee meeting on March 24.

First page of the minutes of the HCU deans committee meeting on March 24.

New Delhi: Recent events at Hyderabad university, including student protests after the return of the VC and police brutality on campus, have resulted in the administration not allowing anyone without a university ID card to enter the varsity premises. Media persons, activists and supporters have repeatedly been denied entry in the past few days.

Minutes of a deans committee meeting held at the VC’s office on March 24 show that the administration is congratulating itself on this move, and going through great lengths to ensure that journalists, as well as supporters of the protesting students, have no access to campus grounds.

“The members noted that the decision to prevent the entry of outsiders and media made on March 22, 2016 had been useful to maintain normalcy on the campus,” the minutes read. “On March 23, several people from media, politicians, Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar, President, JNUSU, Mrs. Radhika Vemula [Rohith Vemula’s mother], etc. were not permitted by the security staff of the University. The members [present at the meeting] complimented the University security staff and also the external support given by the police in the process.”

No mention is made of the reported police action on campus – students have alleged brutality – or the arrest of protesting students and teachers that day.

In addition, the minutes talk about the ‘danger’ of the media finding a way in:

“University security needs to keep a constant vigil on the possible sneaking of the media into the campus. The PRO should be notified as and when the media illegally makes its presence on the campus so as to deal with them appropriately.”

The document also refers to media reports on recent events as “damaging”. “It was felt that the facts given by the university to the media had been received with less priority. At the same time, negative and concocted stories were given wide coverage.”

For the Background to this Story
The Crisis at Hyderabad University: An Explainer

When asked about why the media was being kept out and what the problem with students speaking to media persons was, HCU vice chancellor Appa Rao Podile told The Wire:  “… we have no problem with students speaking to the media if they wish to do so. In the past 10 days, several events have been shared by our students to the media both print and electronic. University also shared several reports to media. Our intention here is not to curtail media freedom to report on matters related to the University. We want our students to focus on studies at this juncture as the examinations are very close. Those who wish to submit reports to media, we have not stopped them doing so”.

On whether he felt the document deeming media presence as “illegal” and denying access to campus activities curtailed the freedom of the media, the VC said: “We have no intention to interfere with the freedom of the students or media. We are trying to protect the interests of the institution at this juncture”.

In response to the ‘media blackout’ on campus, protesting students have taken to social media to share news and experiences from within the campus. Protesting students continue to demand the resignation of the VC whom they hold responsible for the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula.