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Azmi’s Statements Not Disrespectful: Bar

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PETALING JAYA: Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom’s comments about the Perak constitutional crisis were well within the reasonable exercise of academic freedom and public discourse, said the Malaysian Bar.

“This cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, constitute sedition,” said Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong in a statement yesterday following Azmi’s appearance in court to answer a sedition charge.

“Likewise, we reiterate that questioning the exercise of discretion should not be seen as being disrespectful to those to whom that discretion has been given, but a legitimate examination of the proper exercise of that discretion as permitted by law,” said Leong, who added that the organisation was appalled with the charges brought against the law lecturer.

Leong said although Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had once declared that the days of “government knows best” were over, the prosecution of individuals – over the past few days – who have been perceived to have challenged or questioned authorities “deny the very humility that declaration presupposes”.

The police, however, maintained that they would continue to act against seditious elements, with Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar saying that the police were expected to make more arrests.

“Berani cakap, berani tanggung (Those brave enough to make statements should face the consequences). We will not tolerate those who besmirch others or make seditious statements via social media or other mediums.

“Wait for action by the police,” Khalid warned.

He added that police acted based on facts and in a transparent manner, without taking into account the religion, race or political leanings of those involved.

“It is not a witch hunt,” he said when contacted here yesterday.

The University of Malaya Academic Staff Union (PKAUM) and the Malaysian Academics Movement (MOVE) also expressed their objection to Azmi’s prosecution.

“We are extremely disappointed with the use of the Sedition Act 1948 against Azmi. This is a gross violation of his academic rights, and goes against the true spirit of Article 10 on freedom of speech, assembly and association guaranteed by the Federal Constitution,” said PKAUM and MOVE in a joint statement.

It added that the charges against Azmi was also a serious violation of the 1997 Unesco Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching, which spells out an academician’s rights to freedom of expression and obligations to society.MYNEWSHUB/The Star

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