Students political expression still curtailed under amendments to UUCA

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned that the freedom of political expression of local university students continues to be restricted in the proposed amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA).

According to national news agency BERNAMA’s August 2 report on the amendments, students will still be prohibited to join political parties and groups without the Vice Chancellor’s consent. Further, although
politicians from opposition parties will be allowed to give talks in campus, the content and format are still subject to the approval of university authorities.

Minute leeways–such as allowing those already active in politics to pursue post-graduate education in local universities without having to withdraw their political participation- -does not change the fact that
university students’ right to seek and impart political views is still being curtailed. It reflects a government that still wants to control student activism and keep critical expression in check.

The amendments to the act, proposed by the Higher Education Ministry, were silent on the requirement for students to sign a pledge to refrain from any activities, both political and non-political, without the Vice
Chancellor’s permission. Nor was there any mention to lift the ban on students expressing political views publicly and on reducing the penalties for violating the law, which includes criminal charges, suspension and eviction.

Without lifting the ban on political participation, the government maintains the spirit of the law, which is the curtailment of students’ right to freedom of expression. It is ironic that local universities are not allowed to be the place for students to generate critical thinking through political expression and activism when leading universities around the world leave all channels of ideas open to students in order to cultivate their intellectual independence.

CIJ calls on the government to repeal the provisions that restrict local undergraduates’ political freedom. The government cannot continue to discriminate against them when they, as citizens of Malaysia, are entitled
to the Constitutionally enshrined freedom of expression.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all people enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek, and impart information.

Issued by
Centre for Independent Journalism

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