A political forum at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), also known as Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA), was stopped on May 13, 2015, after campus security officials interrupted the speech of an opposition party member, took his microphone, and prevented him from continuing to speak.
Students had reportedly organized the event, a debate on Malaysia’s Goods and Services Tax (GST), several days in advance, securing necessary approvals from university authorities and obtaining permission to have political figures participate. Among the participants was MP Rafizi Ramli, a member of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat party.
A few days before the event was scheduled to take place, however, the university’s vice rector reportedly informed the students that they would need to cancel the event because one of the speakers was “not suitable.” The organizers then changed the venue — still on campus — and proceeded with the event.
Prior to Rafizi’s speech, security personnel reportedly interrupted another speaker to announce that, while they would allow the event to continue, Rafizi would not be permitted to speak. Rafizi nevertheless began speaking as scheduled, but after roughly ten minutes, was reportedly interrupted by the chief of campus security, who took his microphone and prevented him from continuing. Following physical interaction between security personnel and student organizers, the IIUM student council president called the event off, stating that he feared pressure from campus security would increase if they went forward.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about attempts to cancel or intervene in peaceful on-campus events, or to otherwise limit academic or political expression or freedom of association on campus – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such activities, so long as they are undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Actions limiting the rights to free academic expression or association on campus have a chilling effect on academic freedom, and undermine democratic society generally.
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