**Updates IFEX alert of 6 January 2005** (SEAPA/IFEX) – The Science University of Malaysia (USM) has for the second time investigated Ali Bukhari Amir, a senior communications major at the school, for his critical articles on the university.
The focus of the investigation has now shifted to the student’s website and his role in founding a writers’ association.
Meanwhile, the university has attempted to downplay its current investigation into Ali, who challenged the campus’s partisan politics and their impact on students’ intellectual growth and human rights in articles that appeared in the campus newspaper, “Berita Kampus”, and a PAS opposition party publication, “Harakah”, in 2004.
Ali was first questioned for two hours on 13 December 2004 by the university’s investigating committee, a move which drew criticism from the local and international free expression community, including SEAPA. The student was warned by the investigating committee not to divulge details of the probe to the media and told that future articles would have to be cleared by the university’s vice-chancellor before publication.
In response to a 6 January 2005 SEAPA protest letter, the university said the questioning of the student was a normal procedure. “We will only proceed to take action against the student if the findings are liable enough to bring him to the disciplinary board, under the Malaysian Universities and University Colleges Act 1971,” university authorities responded in a 31 January letter. The letter was signed by Siti Zabaidah A. Hamid, senior deputy registrar of the university’s Student Affairs and Development
Division, and was received by SEAPA on 10 February.
The letter, however, came on the heels of the latest investigation of the student’s activities on 11 January, according to SEAPA’s source in Malaysia. No reason has been given for the second questioning but according to the same source, the process involved a series of “meetings” between editors of the student newspaper and USM security staff. A security officer reportedly made inquiries into Ali’s reporting on the student elections.
Ali was later quoted by Malaysia’s independent online newspaper, “Malaysiakini”, as saying that the focus of the probe now included his website and his role in the writers’ alliance, a group of university student writers.
On 28 January, “Malaysiakini” reported that USM Securities Division Head Noor Rizan Khalid had also asked Ali to explain in writing when and why he had created his website.
The student was reportedly also questioned about cheques he received from a number of publications for his earlier articles.
Students in Malaysia are bound by the 1971 Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), which prohibits them from joining political parties. Students can also be prosecuted for speaking to the media without prior permission from university authorities.
In the past three years, several USM students have been sanctioned for breaching these regulations. In December 2004, Soh Sook Hwa, a final-year student, was fined RM200 (approx. US$53) for campaigning during the March general election.
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