Lawyers for Liberty refers to reports that four Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) students were called in for questioning by the police in relation to their involvement in activist Fahmi Reza’s Kelas Demokrasi (Democracy Class) held in Penang last month.
LFL is appalled that the students, three of whom merely attended the event and one who only replied to Fahmi’s post on Twitter, were called up by the police for questioning.
Political activism and creating democratic awareness are not crimes. They are an exercise of free speech and assembly that is protected under Article 10(1)(a) and Article 10(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution.
We are particularly disappointed that this is happening under a government led by the ‘reformist’ Anwar Ibrahim and the Pakatan Harapan political coalition. Where are the promises of yesteryears?
A healthy democratic process depends on the free marketplace of ideas in any form, whether it happens online or physically, and it must be protected from police action. There is no reason then for the students to have been called by the police or for a police investigation to be conducted on Fahmi Reza’s Kelas Demokrasi.
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We must also stress that irrespective of whether any event of this nature was for the benefit of any specific political ideology or party, police action is never warranted. In fact, the irony is that this Fahmi Reza talk was reportedly non-partisan. Students and the public at large should be able to engage each other and coalesce to discuss the democratic process as well as the political development of the country.
The PH political bloc – from whom the new PM, Anwar Ibrahim, comes – in its manifesto has already promised that freedom of speech will be empowered under its rule. This promise must be kept. Otherwise, it will be a flagrant breach of a solemn undertaking given to voters.
Therefore, we urge the new government and Anwar to uphold civil liberties and give the necessary policy directives to the enforcement bodies.
Meanwhile, we urge the inspector general of police to immediately stop the investigation on Fahmi Reza’s Kelas Demokrasi and other such events.
Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty