Academic Freedom Media Review

March 10 – 16, 2018

Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements.  Scholars at Risk identifies situations of concern on its own and welcomes reports submitted by faculty, students and volunteers at participating higher education institutions.

Unless otherwise indicated (such as in articles written by SAR), the language and views contained in the reports below reflect those of the originating author and/or publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Scholars at Risk or its members, affiliates, board or staff. Subscribe to SAR’s media review.

Walkouts nationwide
Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Insider Higher Ed, 03/15
Exactly one month after the Parkland, Fla., massacre, students across the country exited classrooms at 10 a.m., some quiet, some carrying signs demanding gun reform from lawmakers. The victims’ names were read aloud in places, at others chants arose: “It could have been us.” Read more.

Mexico: Ayotzinapa investigation marred by torture and cover-ups – UN report
United Nations OHCHR, 03/15
There are strong grounds to believe that some of the people detained in Mexico during the early stages of the investigation into the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in 2014 were arbitrarily detained and tortured, and that these serious violations were in turn inadequately investigated and even covered up, a report by the UN Human Rights Office said on Thursday. Read more.

Forbidden feeds: Government controls on social media in China
Pen America, 03/14
Based on extensive interviews with writers, poets, artists, activists, and others personally affected by the government’s grip on online expression, as well as interviews with anonymous employees at Chinese social media companies, Forbidden Feeds: Government Controls on Social Media in China lays bare the destructive impact of the Chinese government’s vision of “cyber sovereignty” on netizens who dare to dissent. Read more.

The strange limbo of a Russian university
The Economist, 03/13
The European University at St Petersburg is being threatened with destruction by the state. Students are unable to graduate, and staff are forbidden from giving lectures. It is unclear if university life will ever return to normal, and nobody is able or willing to explain why it should close down. Read more.

What college students really think about free speech
Niraj Chokshi, New York Times, 03/12
To some, free speech on college campuses appears to be under attack, but what do the students themselves think? A study released on Monday offers some answers based on a survey of more than 3,000 of them. The survey, a collaboration among five groups, finds that college students feel increasingly stifled on campus and online, and while they equally value free speech and inclusivity, they wrestle with how best to balance the two. Read more.

Palestinians injured in clashes at protest against Israeli university raid
France 24, 03/12
Ten Palestinians were injured Monday in clashes that erupted during a protest against an Israeli army raid last week on a university campus. Read more.

Singapore: Reject sweeping public order bill
Human Rights Watch, 03/12
Singapore’s proposed public order law would further empower the government to repress freedom of assembly and speech, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should revise the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) bill, introduced in Parliament on February 27, 2018, to ensure that protection of public safety does not violate fundamental rights. Read more.

Russia 2012 – 2018: 50 anti-democracy laws entered into force within last presidential mandate
FIDH, 03/11
Since re-election in 2012, Russian president has overseen the creation of 50 new laws designed to strangle opposition voices and raise the level of fear and self-control in the society, according to new research by FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights). Read more.

The closing of China will affect universities worldwide
Philip G Altbach and Hans de Wit, University World News, 03/09*
The news that China’s constitution will be amended so that Xi Jinping can be president beyond his current second term is only the latest indication of fundamental political change taking place. Experts have noted that President Xi has amassed the most power since Mao Zedong and seeks long-term authority to carry out his policies. While higher education, research and internationalisation are far from the centre of contemporary political developments, they will unquestionably be affected and may be ‘collateral damage’. Read more.

*Not featured in the March 9 edition of the Academic Freedom Media Review.