Our rights deserve a broader perspective — Azmi Sharom

Source: The Star Online

BY AZMI SHAROM

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher.

THE anti-fake news law has already been much criticised for its vagueness and broadness and, due to that, its potential to be a potent threat to free speech and the freedom of the press.

I won’t therefore add to that line of argument.

Neither would I dwell on the disingenuous argument that anyone who does not support the new Act supports fake news. That is too facile to dignify with a response.

I would like, however, to state that I find it difficult to justify the law from a legal perspective. The Constitution states that Parliament may make laws that restrict free speech if the purpose is to protect national security, public order and morals. Read more

Racism has to be opposed from the top down — Azmi Sharom

Source: The Star

BY AZMI SHAROM

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher.

DEMOCRACY takes power away from the few, or the one, and places it in the hands of the many. Which is why we hear phrases like “people power” and “returning power to the people” bandied around when speaking about democratic reform.

Theoretically, if there is a free press, fairly delineated constituencies, independent state agencies and a respect for human rights, then the government of the day will be a reflection of the will of the people.

We, the ordinary men and women, choose our leaders. We can also “fire” them by voting them out. Therefore, we have ultimate power.

Read more

Academic: Constitution needs preamble on human rights

Source: FMT News

Law professor Dr Azmi Sharom — Pic taken from Penang Monthly

KUALA LUMPUR: Law professor Azmi Sharom has suggested that a preamble be introduced in the Federal Constitution to make judges bear in mind basic principles like rule of law, respect for human rights and respect for liberties when hearing cases.

“The constitution desperately needs a preamble so that when judges fall into a conundrum, they have a guide,” he said.

The Universiti Malaya lecturer claimed that Malaysian judges, particularly at the Federal Court, had failed to uphold these principles when exercising their verdicts.

He said the constitution could lead the country towards moderation and progressiveness if judges were enlightened and able to interpret it well.

He said while there were good and principled judges, most were retired while those who had not, were not serving in the Federal Court.

He said this posed a problem as the Federal Court was the highest court in the country.

Azmi was speaking at a dialogue entitled “Wither Freedom without truths in Malaysia?” at the PAUM club house here today. Read more

‘Restricting foreign Islamic experts stunts intellectual development’

Source: FMT News

Pic from FMT News

KUALA LUMPUR: Using laws to restrict intellectuals from abroad from discussing Islam will stunt the intellectual development of the country, warned Universiti Malaya Academic Association chairman and law professor Azmi Sharom.

“By not appreciating intellectual development, you are actually being anti-patriotic and you are destroying this nation.”

Azmi was responding to a report today that a prominent US academician had cancelled her trip to Malaysia after learning about Turkish-born writer Mustafa Akyol’s experience here.

Akyol, who came to Malaysia to deliver a talk, was detained and questioned by religious authorities on suspicion of speaking on Islam without officially recognised credentials. Read more

Professor: Only Parliament can limit freedom of expression

Source: FMT News

Pic from FMT News

KUALA LUMPUR: Freedom of expression, one of the fundamental liberties enshrined in the Federal Constitution, can only be limited by laws passed in Parliament, says law academic Azmi Sharom.

He described the ban on the Bahasa Malaysia version of Allah, Liberty and Love by Irshad Manji, Azmi as frightening, arguing that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) had used the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 to ban the book.

He explained Article 10 of the Federal Constitution was extremely clear in that it guaranteed Malaysian citizens the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

This freedom, however, was not absolute, he said, as Parliament had the power to impose limits, if necessary, in the interests of national security, public order and morality.

“Here’s the clincher. This ban was done under state shariah law.

“Freedom of expression can only be limited by laws made by Parliament — not the Selangor state assembly. That is not Parliament. Read more

Operation Lalang and the ISA– Azmi Sharom

Source: The Star Online

BY AZMI SHAROM

TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad gave an interview to an online news portal a few days ago

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher in Universiti Malaya.

about Operation Lalang in 1987.

I found the interview to be infuriating and here is why.

Firstly, he tried to absolve himself from any blame by saying the detention was done by the police and on police advice. Gosh, I had no idea he was such a malleable prime minister.

Let me explain how the Internal Security Act (ISA), which was repealed in 2012, worked. When they detained a person initially, it was done at the discretion of the police.

This was when you got a bunch of cops, normally heavily armed, arresting you, usually in the middle of the night.

This detention could last up to 60 days. After those 60 days the detention could be extended to another two years, and another and another ad infinitum. Read more

There’s good news and there’s bad news — Azmi Sharom

Source: The Star Online

BY AZMI SHAROM

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher.

First came a surprise ban, but it was followed by an inspiring, heartwarming Court of Appeal decision.

THE banning of the book Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy came as a surprise to me.

I wasn’t surprised that it was banned. The Government has banned around 2,000 books since 1960. It’s not exactly a bestseller.

Full disclosure here folks: I have a chapter in this book. I can hardly remember what I wrote, but it was about fundamental liberties in the Federal Constitution.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that the book is a collection of measured and scholarly articles, with a foreword by former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, not some rabble-rousing diatribe. And yet it was deemed to be prejudicial to national security.

No explanation was given how this is so. Read more

‘Ban on G25 book utterly ridiculous’

Source: FMT News 

PETALING JAYA: Banning a book that aims to counter extreme and bigoted views of Islam is proof that the government fears a different and moderate interpretation of the religion.

This was the opinion of Chandra Muzaffar, one of the contributors to the book titled “Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy”.

The book was authored by G25, a group of 25 prominent Malays. According to the government, it was banned because it was deemed prejudicial to public order. Read more

Give them a fair trial here — Azmi Sharom

Source: The Star Online

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher in Universiti Malaya.

BY AZMI SHAROM

THE arrest of Turkish nationals Turgay Karaman and Ihsan Aslan gives rise to some serious concerns.

According to the Inspector-General of Police, they were arrested under Section 130 of the Penal Code. Section 130 is about the crime of participating in terrorist activities.

Ah, terrorism, that one wonderful word which can be used to hide a multitude of sins.

If these men are involved in terrorism (according to the police they are linked to Islamic State), then by all means let them be tried in open court here in Malaysia.

However, they do seem to be rather unlikely terrorists. Although, never having met a terrorist before, I am not an expert on the matter. Read more

Free speech must be for all — Azmi Sharom

Source: The Star Online

Even if we disapprove of what they say, we should defend to the death their right to say it.

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher in Universiti Malaya.

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher in Universiti Malaya.

ONE of the difficulties about defending the freedom of speech is that one has to defend speech that one likes as well as speech that one does not.

In the past week there have been two free speech issues that have been of interest in the country. One is regarding Zakir Naik and the other about a truly unfunny television presenter.

Let’s deal with Zakir first. Right off the bat, I want to say that I don’t think anyone should be banned from speaking unless what they say incites violence.

It does not matter if what they say is hurtful, that is not sufficient ground for censorship.

The very same reasons used to defend Zunar’s right to create his highly critical cartoons and not face criminal charges can be used for Zakir. Read more