KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 ― Two professors accused the federal government of trampling on academic freedom of expression today with the sedition prosecution of Universiti Malaya law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom, and cautioned that the intellectual community will not stay silent if their rights are violated.
Professor Wan Manan Wan Muda who heads the Malaysian Academic Movement's (MOVE), told reporters at the Court Complex here that the government’s prosecution of Azmi was a violation of their academic freedom of expression.
“We have been dormant for the last 30 years, maybe due to better pay and all. But in this case, we considered it a violation of academic freedom, the violation of an academic’s rights to comment within his ambit of research and specialty,” Wan Manan said.
“Now, they have to be worried about us reacting to this suppression and oppression. They have to worry that the students and academics are coming together,” he added, outside the courtroom where Azmi’s case had been heard earlier.
On September 2 last year, Azmi was charged under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act 1948 together with and an alternative charge under Section 4(1)(c) of the same law at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court for a remark he made in an article published on Malay Mail Online.
Section 4(1)(b) covers “uttering any seditious words” while Section 4(1)(c) deals with individuals who publish seditious publications, among other things.
If convicted under either charge for his quotes in the article titled “Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told”, the UM associate professor could face a maximum fine of RM5,000, a maximum three-year jail term or both.
Azmi had tried unsuccessfully to challenge the constitutionality and validity of the Sedition Act on the basis that the law was not passed by Parliament, and was ordered to stand trial.