SEAPA protests against university’s rising restrictions on students’ free expression rights

[The following letter is sent to Science University of Malaysia in Penang on January 6 2004 to protest the university’s rising restrictions on students’ rights to organise and express themselves]

6 January 2005

Professor Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Vice Chancellor
Office of the Vice Chancellor Science University of Malaysia
11800 USM, Penang, Malaysia., Tel: 604-657 3987, Fax: 604-656 5401, E-mail: vc@usm.my

——————————————————————————————

Associate Professor Dato’ Jamaluddin Mohaiadin
Deputy Vice Chancellor
Student Affairs and Development Division Science University of Malaysia
Tel: 604-653 3106 or 653 3888 ext. 3449, Fax: 604-657 3761, E-mail: dvc_stu@notes.usm.my

Dear Sirs,

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), a leading advocate for freedom of expression in the region, is gravely troubled by the Science University’s rising restrictions on students’ rights to organise and express themselves.

In a 31 December 2004 statement, the Center for Independent Journalism/Malaysia said third-year mass communication student Ali Bukhari Amir was grilled by an investigative committee of the Science University of Malaysia on 13 December for two hours. The student was said to have been questioned over articles he wrote for the campus newspaper and an opposition party organ.

According to CIJ, no legal charge was brought against him but the committee nonetheless warned him not to talk about the questioning. Supposedly, he was also told that future articles would have to be cleared by the university authorities first.

Both articles–one published in an opposition party’s publications and the other in campus newspaper, “Berita Kampus”–questioned the propriety of campus activities and the fairness of the campus council election.

In November, the university fined a third year journalism student Soh Sook Hwa for campaigning during the general elections earlier in the year. Soh is expected to be suspended from holding office. She is a president of the university’s Chinese Language Society.

In 2003, the Chinese Language Society of the university was suspended for a year because its members were involved in campaigning against a law that allows indefinite detention without trial. In 2002, Lee Yen Ting, among others, was suspended for a semester and fined for picketing against a controversial policy that allegedly threatens native language education.

In 2001, Choo Chon Kai, a top chemistry student, was suspended a semester for possessing and selling badges protesting a detention-without-trial law.

All the above cases point to an environment that is hostile to people’s rights to organise and speak their minds. SEAPA looks at this with much concern, and implore the university to be more respectful of its students’ rights, both as members of the academic community, and as citizens entitled to rights and freedoms that Malaysia, in international conventions, supposedly espouse.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Sincerely,

Roby Alampay
Executive Director

Background:

The Malaysian Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 allow universities to prosecute student for speaking to the media without prior permission from University authorities. They are not allowed to join political parties and on entry to university must take a pledge of obedience to the Government.

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