[This post is being updated as more information arrives, so please check back].
A friend and colleague at the University of Malawi (Chancellor College) has just sent this somewhat hair-raising account of a developing attack on academic freedom there:
“Just to update you on what is happening here on the academic front. One of my colleague’s in a public policy class gave an example of Egypt and Libya illustrating causes of public discontent. One of the students reported him to the Inspector General of Police who called the said lecturer for questioning. The whole academic community felt this is an infringement of academic freedom and were concerned that we have spies in our classrooms that are to report us to powers that be which can even lead to arrests of lecturers on account of examples they give in class (this used to happen in the one party era).
As a result, while doing other duties, we have been expressing our fear to teach by not teaching until we are assured by the police chief that this will not happen again and our academic freedom will be secure. The police chief has since refused to do this and the state president is backing him saying he is the best police Inspector General ever.
Meanwhile the University authorities have closed down the University sending all the student away and ordered the termination of services of the lecturer who gave the example and three academic staff union leaders. The rest of us have been told that our salaries have been suspended until further notice or when situation normalizes in a bid to force us go to class without the assurance of academic freedom. We have also been told that the University will completely close by tomorrow 5pm and we need to surrender all the office keys. We have since gone to court to fight against these measures. The courts are independent as the have given an injunction against the dismissal of the four colleagues and the complete closure of the University tomorrow. We are also waiting for an application to force the authorities against the suspension of salaries.”
Since this message arrived, the Malawi Government and University has failed in an attempt to overturn the injunction against it in the Courts.
If anyone has links – governmental, University or otherwise – to Malawi maybe you can find your own ways to express concern?
Here’s a press report about the issues.
Here are some more email addresses my friend in Malawi just sent:
1. Minister of Foreign affairs- Bcrf2001@yahoo.com
2. Vice Chancellor Of the University of Malawi – firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Registrar University of Malawi – email@example.com
4. Principal Chancellor College – firstname.lastname@example.org
I sent them the following email:
I am writing to express my concern and outrage at the disgraceful attack on academic freedom and freedom of expression at your institution and the needless confrontation with your academic staff. These events are doing enormous damage to the international reputation of Chancellor College, the University of Malawi and the Government of Malawi.
Please be aware that the international academic community is watching these events carefully.
IF YOU EMAIL ANY OF THEM, PLEASE COPY ME SO WE CAN MONITOR THE TAKE-UP (email@example.com)
PLEASE PASS ON THIS INFORMATION TO ANYONE YOU THINK CAN ACT EFFECTIVELY.