Varsity gags staff, students from criticising govt

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Student activist Anis Syafiqah criticized the notice, saying it was a desperate attempt to silence students from speaking out against the university or government…

PETALING JAYA: The management of a leading local public university has imposed a gag order on its staff and students, reminding them not to speak ill of the university or government to the public or media.

 

It is not known what led the university to issue the notice.

A staff member, who did not want to be identified, told FMT he received the notice from the management this week.

“It seems now we cannot criticize the government,” he said, adding that it was the first time the university had issued such a notice.

It was issued by the integrity unit of the vice-chancellor’s office.

 

The notice warned staff and students against making statements detrimental to the university or the government’s policies, plans or decisions.

They are also not allowed to tarnish the reputation of the university or government, point out any weaknesses in policies, provide any form of information on the university’s functions and offer any form of explanation about the university or government.

 

They are only allowed to speak if permission is obtained from the relevant ministry.

The “statements” referred to in the notice included media statements, speeches and social media publications.

 

It was also stated that the notice was issued persuant to Rule 18 of the Statutory Bodies Rules, made under the Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge) Act.

 

However, it did not provide the penalties under the rules if members were found “guilty” of any offence.

When contacted by FMT, the university’s integrity unit confirmed it issued the notice yesterday to members through the university’s email system.

 

However, it declined to provide any reasons for it.

Student activist Anis Syafiqah criticized the notice, saying it was a desperate attempt to silence students from speaking out against the university or government.

 

“This only proves that the university itself is absolutely controlled by the government and politicians,” she said.

Anis and three other students previously filed a suit to challenge the validity of their university’s rules, claiming it breached their freedom of expression.

 

Anis was suspended for a semester and fined RM400 by her school’s tribunal for organizing the “Tangkap MO1” rally in August last year.

Another student activist, Tan Jia You, said it was not logical for the university to restrict staff and students from airing their feelings.

 

“Universities should be the place where we learn how to communicate our thoughts freely and think critically.

“The notice breaches academic freedom,” he said.

 

Tan also said the university’s notice was “unclear” on what statements were deemed detrimental to the university’s reputation.

“If I return home and tell my family members about the facilities I am not satisfied about, would I be charged by the university with making public statements against the faculty concerned?”

 

Source: FMT | November 28, 2017

Credit to Ho Kit Yen

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