The Faculty of Law, University of Malaya (“the Faculty”) had its debut in the 11th Monroe E. Price Media Law Moot Court Competition, which is a prestigious competition organised annually by the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP), University of Oxford. The Price Media Law Moot Competition challenges students to engage in comparative research of legal standards at the national, regional and international levels, and to develop their arguments on questions in Media, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) laws as well as on freedom of expression. The competition comprises of six regional rounds (South Asia, Asia-Pacific, South East Europe, North East Europe, Middle East, Africa and Americas) and the international rounds held in Oxford. For the regional stage, our team was grouped into the Asia-Pacific Rounds which was held in Renmin University, Beijing.
Being the first team sent by the Faculty, we were unaware of the background and nature of the competition into which we were getting. Even the areas of law in the moot question, which revolve around International Media Law and International Human Rights Law, were particularly new to us all. As an additional challenge, the memorial submission for the Asia-Pacific Rounds was the earliest amongst the regions because it was the first regional rounds held for the competition. As a result, we only had less than a month to do our research and draft the memorials before the deadline.
In the face of such odds, we had to pick up the pace in everything we did. We committed many hours in the research and drafting of our memorials in order to not fall behind the strict timeline we had set. It was due to such hectic schedules and long-hours spent together that the team bonded swiftly. Each research and memorial-drafting session was made a lot less stressful by the many bursts of laughter and silly jokes cracked in the process. It was in such testing and physically-draining times that strong bonds of friendship and teamwork were fostered among us.
After the submission of our memorials, the preparation for our oral rounds commenced with haste. With the meticulous guidance of our coach, Mr Raphael, we constructed and refined our oral scripts after every practice round with internal and external judges. We had the opportunity to invite notable alumni of the Faculty to judge us for our training sessions, such as Mr Saifullah Qamar and Mr Marcus Lee. We also had the chance to submit before lecturers like Mr Simon Wood, Madam Zuraida and Mr Stewart Manley. Without the help of these judges who patiently listened to our two-hour long submissions, we could not have physically and mentally prepared ourselves for the competition ahead of us.
The week of the competition drew closer, and soon enough we boarded the plane to Beijing, hopeful of securing our ticket to Oxford there. With the advocacy skills imparted to us by our coach, along with the depth of research we have conducted, we battled our way to the finals of the regional rounds, where we faced the defending champion of the Asia-Pacific Rounds and semi-finalist for the international round, the University of San Carlos. In the end, they won against us in the Asia-Pacific Regional Rounds. During the awards-giving ceremony, it was then revealed that our team’s memorials emerged as runners-up, with the University of Philippines clinching the Best Memorial Award. It was also a moment of pride for all of us when the Master of Ceremony announced us as runners-up of the competition despite it being our debut appearance in this competition. All in all, our objective for the regional rounds was achieved, which is to secure our ticket to the international rounds in Oxford.
A hasty group picture before boarding our flight to Beijing
The runners-up of the Asia-Pacific Regional Rounds of 11th Price Media Moot Competition
A half-day visit to The Forbidden City, Beijing, which was the only tourist spot we managed to visit in spite of our hectic schedule
Happy coach with his “concubines”
Striking off the last pose before the memorial exchange
And another pose after the memorial exchange at the Law Faculty of Renmin University, Beijing
The finals of the regional rounds against the University of San Carlos, Philippines
The awards-giving ceremony
After a short period of rest to focus on our final examinations, we resumed our research to prepare for the International Rounds, which would certainly be even more challenging as compared to the rounds in Beijing. We would be facing 42 international teams of great aptitude, some being veterans in this moot competition.
To prepare ourselves, we needed to delve deeper into the deep, dark abyss of International Media Law and Human Rights Law. We also needed to discover new arguments which were unconventional and creative to catch our potential opponents by surprise. Our scripts, too, needed fine-tuning and familiarising so that we could go into the oral rounds script-less. We generated various arguments with the help of our coach and gave great effort in research by looking up on more specific domestic-court cases to strengthen our arguments. This process resulted in our scripts being changed drastically almost on a daily basis, since fresh arguments could spring up at any time and be dropped the next day. Such a process was necessary to thoroughly filter the arguments to be included in our scripts.
Even the elaborations of our arguments were constantly evolving in our scripts because Mr Raphael wanted the delivery of each argument to be concise, engaging, and easily digestible for the judges’ appetites. Although this entire process proved to be very taxing for the team, it was crucial as it taught us the importance of flexibility and fluidity in our arguments. This is because not one submission may be orchestrated by our own volition. The flow of arguments and submissions from us, the counsels, is entirely at the mercy of the bench of judges. If they wish to listen to Ground 3 in the beginning instead of Ground 1, an excellent mooter must know how to address the court in accordance to their wishes, without any regard of the script’s sequence. Despite our scripts being in a limbo, the importance of flexibility is understood and appreciated by the team.
In the middle of refining our scripts, we, again, had practice rounds before judges from various backgrounds. We had the opportunity to moot before fellow mooters from competitions such as the Phillip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition and the International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot (IMLAM) Competition, and lecturers of the Faculty. We then had three external training sessions with lawyers from Herbert Smith & Freehills, Chooi & Co as well as Mr Harald Sippel of the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC). They gave constructive feedback and suggestions which assisted us in our preparation for the competition. While the training rounds proceeded as scheduled, the highly-anticipated international rounds for which we have been preparing tirelessly drew closer.
Then came the day that we finally embarked on our journey to participate in the Price Media International Rounds. The 14-hour flight from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to Heathrow Airport gave me my first taste of jet lag, which really lived up to its unpleasant reputation. After checking in our luggage at the hotel, we immediately took off to the University of Oxford for the memorial-exchange. Upon doing so, we headed back to the hotel for some well-deserved rest. After that, we reconvened at the hotel’s dining area to scrutinize our opponents’ memorials to prepare for the two battles that awaited us the next morning. We were to appear on behalf of the Applicant for the first round, and then as Respondent for the second.
Then came the day of the long-awaited battle for which we have been so tirelessly preparing. Our first round was against the Moi University of Kenya, which emerged as runners-up in the African Regional Rounds. For the second round, we faced Humboldt University from Germany as the Respondents. The third preliminary round took place on the second day of the competition, where we were the Applicants, facing the Shahid-Beheshti University from Iran. Eventually, we emerged victorious in all the three match-ups, with eight out of nine judges giving us the win in the entirety of the preliminary rounds. We ranked 7th out of 42 teams in the overall standings, giving us the ticket to the octo-finals. Delighted with the news, and eager to proceed further in the competition, we returned to our hotel to prepare for the next round.
The 2nd preliminary round against Humboldt University, Germany
The octo-finals saw team University of Malaya (Applicants) face the State University of Belarus (Respondents). After a gripping round, we were declared winners, and qualified to the quarter-finals. We were seeded against the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, which defeated the National University of Singapore in the octo-finals. This time, appearing on behalf of the Respondents, we were defeated in the quarter-finals. The competition’s curtain call was upon us, and we returned to our hotels for some yearned for rest.
The 3rd preliminary round against Shahid Beheshti University from Iran
The final of the Price Media Law Moot Competition was between the two-time defending champions, the Singapore Management University (SMU) and the University of San Carlos - the Philippine team which emerged as the champion of the Asia Pacific Regional Rounds. After a hard-fought round, the trophy eventually fell in the well-deserving hands of the University of San Carlos. Just when we thought that there were no further accolades for the team, we were delighted by the announcement that our respected captain, Ms Lee Suan Cui, was the 6th best mooter for the general rounds. Hence, the Price Media Law Moot Competition came to an official end, and all participants left the hall with an experience they shall cherish for the rest of their lives.
Although our progress in the competition ended in the quarter-finals, we left the competition with our heads held high, as we proved ourselves to be the small team that could match the powerhouses in the prestigious competition. Despite being the team with one of the fewest members in the international rounds and this being our first appearance in the competition, we managed to rank 7th in the competition and have one of our mooters among the Top 10 Oralists of the competition. It is our firm belief that with the experience that we have obtained from our maiden appearance in this competition, the future University of Malaya Price Media teams from our faculty may set forth and surpass our precedent, further solidifying the proud name of our faculty on the international stage.
Taken at the Manor Road Building, University of Oxford
On a personal note, I absolutely enjoyed the experience gained from this competition. Not only have I obtained close friends whom I respect and adore, I have also learned a great deal in the process of developing my research and advocacy skills. For the pleasant memories and great lessons learnt, I wish to convey my deep appreciation and gratitude to: (i) the faculty administration for this golden opportunity which would not be possible without their support; (ii) our dedicated coach, Mr Raphael, who tirelessly guided us through the competition; and last but not least, (iii) my team members Suan Cui, Jing Rou, Winnie, and Sahira whom I respect and appreciate, for making this entire experience meaningful and memorable.
Close friendships forged
To conclude this article, I implore all aspiring mooters of the Faculty to participate in this distinguished moot, and benefit from all the experiences and lessons that shall be made available to you. We now pass the baton to you and look forward to having the trophy in our faculty one day!
Written by Iqbal Harith Liang
Edited by Corina R. Mangharam