Scholars criticize 'violation of academic freedom'

NHK -- Oct 07
A group of advocates of the Japanese Constitution has accused Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide of violating academic freedom by refusing to appoint six nominees for membership of the Science Council.

The accusation came in a statement issued by five members of the group "Save Constitutional Democracy Japan" at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

The five include Professor Kato Yoko of the University of Tokyo's graduate school and Professor Uno Shigeki of the University of Tokyo. They are founding members of "Save Constitutional Democracy Japan," which was launched in 2014 to express opposition to new national security legislation. Both are also among the six nominees rejected by Prime Minister Suga for membership of the Science Council.

The group's statement notes that the law governing the Science Council grants independence and autonomy in the appointment of members. It stresses that achieving the council's aims of advancing science and using it to make improvements to administrative affairs, economic activity and society is only possible if autonomy is guaranteed.

Asked about the appointment controversy by reporters on Monday, Prime Minister Suga said he made the decision from the standpoint of ensuring that the council conducts its activities from a wide and comprehensive perspective.

The group's statement accuses the government of overturning assessments by experts in various academic fields on the pretext of a "comprehensive perspective." It says this is nothing other than a violation of academic freedom.

It urges Suga to immediately rescind his decision and appoint all six new members.

Hosei University Professor Sugita Atsushi, a former member of the council, said it will be impossible to review government policy or provide advice if academics are to avoid making remarks about the appropriateness of such policy.

He says the appointment issue is not simply a matter for the council; it has a wider effect.