SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: October 20, 2013

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of Adelaide

Region & Country:Oceania | Australia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

A Malaysian Public Service Department (PSD) student adviser in Australia threatened reprisals against PSD-sponsored students if they attended a talk, given as part of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, by Malaysian opposition leader Dato Sri Anwar Ibrahim.  In an email to PSD-sponsored Malaysian students, the Malaysian High Commission’s Students Department adviser, Shahrezan Md Sheriff, warned, “I will not hesitate to take stern action against those PSD scholarship holders who attend this event.  You should know what’s best as you have signed the scholarship agreement, think wisely and focus on better things than to participate in such activities which will land you in trouble.”  PSD-sponsored Malaysian students did reportedly attend the event, despite the threats.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about an apparent threat of reprisals, including an implied threat to withdraw scholarship support, by a public official against students engaged in legitimate academic inquiry, specifically attending a public talk by a well-known public figure.  Higher education and public officials have a responsibility to protect students against intimidation or reprisals aimed at curtailing legitimate academic content or conduct.