18 October 2017 Register to receive our free newsletter by email each week
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Academic Freedom
MEXICO: Academic censored and threatened
Florencio Posadas Segura, a professor at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa in Mexico, has been censured after speaking on the university radio station, Radio UAS. On 13 and 15 May, he commented on the topic of new university regulations, including the issue of succession of the rector, saying that they had not passed democratic and academic tests. Segura was then severely reprimanded by the university authorities.
GLOBAL: Higher education world conference
The World Conference on Higher Education will be held in July at Unesco headquarters in Paris on the theme of The New Dynamics of Higher Education. It follows the 1998 World Conference, which was important for recognising higher education as a key factor in the progression of nations and their people, for sustainable development and for human rights as well as for democracy, peace and justice.
CHINA: Retired professor attacked
On 4 April, a retired professor from Shandong University was brutally beaten by five unidentified men, Human Rights In China has reported. Sun Wenguang, 75, was attacked as he returned from paying respects to the memory of the late Zhao Ziyang, former General Secretary of the Communist Party who visited students on Tiananmen Square during the 1989 democracy movement, and of Zhang Zhixin, a dissident killed during the Cultural Revolution.
UNESCO: World conference on higher education
The Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR) has been working with our partner organisation, Scholars at Risk, to produce a platform for the Unesco World Conference on Higher Education in Paris from 5-8 July. We call for your support in urging the organisers and participants to offer their full support for academic freedom and higher education values.
CHINA: Historian released but unable to travel
Tohti Tunyaz, a Uighur historian and writer from China, was released last month after spending 11 years in prison. Tohti was sentenced for "illegally acquiring state secrets" after receiving a copy of a list of documents relating to the second East Turkestan Independence Movement and pre-1949 Xinjiang history. He was also convicted of "instigating national disunity" after allegedly publishing a book in Japan titled The Inside Story of the Silk Road that was claimed to promote ethnic separatism.
CHINA: Hong Kong professor denied entry into Macau
A Hong Kong professor and two pro-democracy politicians have been barred from Macau, raising serious concerns about academic freedom. AFP News reported that Johannes Chan, Dean of the University of Hong Kong's law faculty, was turned away by immigration officers on 28 February when he went to give a speech at the University of Macau.
THAILAND: Professor charged with insulting King flees
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, fled to Britain last week after being charged with insulting the King under Thailand's draconian lèse majesté laws. Ungpakorn faced three to 15 years in prison for insulting the King in paragraphs in his book, A Coup for the Rich. Lèse majesté laws are intended to punish "whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent".
THAILAND: Academic charged with insulting the monarchy
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, was charged last week under the kingdom's harsh 'lèse majesté' laws, for comments made in numerous paragraphs of his book, A Coup for the Rich. 'Lèse majesté' laws are intended to protect the monarchy from defamation and those found guilty can face a heavy prison sentence.
ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Islamic University in Gaza attacked
The Islamic University in Gaza, an independent Palestinian university established in 1978, has been bombed by Israeli warplanes. The attack took place on 28 December and while the scale of the damage is still not known, reports suggest that a science laboratory was targeted. Fortunately, the university was evacuated before the Israeli assault began and there were no casualties.
SOUTH AFRICA: Professor quits despite global protest
Appeals from academics and organisations around the world to University of KwaZulu-Natal authorities were not enough to prevent the resignation of Professor Nithaya Chetty, The Witness has reported. Inside sources claim Chetty was pushed to resign by his own lawyers for fear of further retribution. The highly respected 45-year-old physicist received immediate job offers from a number of South African institutions and has accepted one from the University of Johannesburg.
SOUTH AFRICA: University petitioned on freedom inroads
About 150 staff at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa have put their names to a petition calling on Education Minister Naledi Pandor to intervene in an long-running dispute over academic freedom, writes Sue Blaine in Business Day. The argument has pitted vice-chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba against some of 4,000 staff members, of whom 1,960 are academics, and international academics.
ETHIOPIA: Academic freedom in East African universities
The Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR) and the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network held a conference and workshop on academic freedom in Ethiopia last month. The event was organised in partnership with the Forum for Social Studies, the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa and the British Council. Faculty members and researchers from 13 countries participated, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine, UK and the US.
UK: Lecturers fear anti-terror laws
A senior member of Britain's Higher Education Academy has noted that many academics teaching and researching terrorism-related subjects are including disclaimers in their course materials as a result of anti-terror laws. According to Times Higher Education, a senior coordinator at the Academy's centre for sociology, anthropology and politics organised a workshop on 'teaching terrorism' at the University of Strathclyde last month in response to the new fears.
AUSTRALIA: EU grant aids human rights study
Thirty students from the Asia Pacific region will undertake postgraduate study in human rights at the University of Sydney following an A$2.67 million (US$1.83 million) grant from the European Union. The new degree, called Asia Pacific Masters in Human Rights and Democratisation, is the only regional programme of its kind.
ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Bomb attack on Israeli academic
A well-known Israeli critic of Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank has been slightly wounded in a bomb attack, BBC News reports. Professor Zeev Sternhell is a former professor of political science at Hebrew University who now writes commentary in the Haaretz newspaper. Sternhell, who was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for Political Science earlier this year, has continuously opposed the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. The authorities believe ultra-nationalist Israelis were behind the attack.
IRAN: SAR and NEAR call for urgent action
Scholars at Risk (SAR) and the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR) have expressed grave concern about the apparent detention of Dr Mehdi Zakerian, an Assistant Professor at Islamic Azad University in Tehran. Zakerian, a scholar of international law and international human rights, has more than 10 years of experience teaching international and Islamic human rights, has more than 50 publications to his name and has recently been appointed Chair of the International Studies Association of Iran.
IRAN: Kurdish student sentenced to death
Kurdish student Habibollah Latifi has been sentenced to death by an Iranian court, convicted of 'endangering state security', the Kurdish Globe has announced. Latifi is the third Iranian Kurd to receive a death sentence in less than a month in what appears to be developing into a blatant campaign against ethnic minorities. In late July, two teachers, Anwar Hossein Panahi and Arsalan Oliaii, were also handed death sentences. According to the Globe, six Iranian Kurds are now on death row, including award-winning journalist Adnan Hassanpour. All have been convicted of endangering state security and 'relations with illegal political organisations'. Amnesty International recently expressed concern about the increased repression of Kurdish Iranians, particularly human rights defenders.
ETHIOPIA: October conference on academic freedom
The Network for Education and Academic Rights, Scholars at Risk Network, British Council Ethiopia, the Forum for Social Studies and the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa are organising a conference and workshop in Addis Ababa to discuss academic freedom in the region.
SAUDI ARABIA: SAR demands action for detained professor
Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about the arrest and detention of Professor Matrouk al-Faleh, a political scientist at the King Saud University in Riyadh. Al-Faleh was arrested on 19 May following the publication two days earlier of a report he wrote critical of conditions in the state security prison system.
UK: Academic faces censure for revision class
A senior academic at Birbeck College, University of London, is facing disciplinary action for holding an end-of-module revision session. The Guardian reports that Dr Bernard Casey has run his extra economics session for the last 18 years and has never been paid for his time - all he has asked of the university was the use of a room for an hour or two which, up until now, has been supplied. But this year, things were different and Casey faces disciplinary action for the potential 'detrimental impact' caused by his holding the revision session.
INDONESIA: Students protest over colleague's death
Hundreds of university students were involved in a demonstration in Jakarta last week to demand answers over the death of a recently incarcerated colleague. Thousands reportedly gathered outside the parliament building, burning tyres and throwing rocks at police. In addition, around 1,000 protestors toppled the parliament building's fence while an effort to set a police vehicle on fire was foiled by police officers.
UK: Education Minister debates academic freedom
British Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell hosted a debate with members of the University College Union this month - the first in a series of events designed to create lively discussion on academic freedom. In recent weeks, academics have attacked the government for creating a 'climate of fear' on campus that led to the arrest and release without charge of a Nottingham University student and administrator for printing a copy of the al-Qaida training manual.
UK: Terrorism arrests raise academic freedom questions
A Nottingham University student and a staff member were detained for nearly a week under British terrorism laws for attempting to print 'controversial' documents on campus. Politics student Rizwaan Sabir was arrested after downloading an edited version of an al-Qaeda handbook from a US government website and sending it to an administrative member of staff, Hashim Yezza, for printing. Sabir is writing his MA dissertation on Islamic extremism and international terrorist networks, and many academics regard the downloaded material, which is publicly available, as a relevant piece of research.
UK: Academics accused of reviving Israel boycott
Academics from the Universities and College Union have been accused of attempting to revive the intensely controversial academic boycott of Israel by calling for lecturers to consider their links with Israeli institutions and lobby contacts over the Israeli occupation.
US: The pope on academic freedom
During his recent visit to America, Pope Benedict XVI told leaders of Roman Catholic colleges and universities that academic freedom was of upmost importance - but did not justify promoting positions that violated the Catholic faith. The Pope said that church teaching should shape all aspects of campus life and that Catholic educators had a profound responsibility to lead the young to truth. Benedict reaffirmed academic freedom values but said attempts to use academic freedom to justify positions that contradicted the teaching of the church would betray the university's identity and mission, Time Magazine reported. Benedict's talk contained no concrete policy directives but emphasised the compatibility of faith and reason.