Suga explains more on Science Council rejections
NHK -- Oct 10
Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has explained more about the government's decision last week to reject six candidates for the Science Council.

On Friday, he said a list of nominees he received did not include those who were rejected. He stressed the procedure has been completed, and that he does not intend to reconsider.

The Science Council of Japan, which is one of the nation's top academic bodies, advises the government on policy. Half its 210 members are chosen every three years based on internal recommendations. The prime minister has the final say on who gets appointed.

Suga broke with precedent by rejecting the six nominees. All have been critical of government policy, including national security. The controversial move led to accusations he is hampering academic independence.

Suga insists the process is being carried out properly. On Friday, he also said, "When making appointments based on law, we keep in mind that the council, which is funded by the state, must conduct its activities with a well-balanced, comprehensive view from a broad perspective. The council must have the understanding of the people. Officials of the Cabinet Office and others discuss the matter with this in mind."

Suga also said, "The prime minister has to fulfill the responsibility to appoint members of the council, who are civil servants. The appointments are made based on the law. The government has not changed its interpretation of the law."

In 1983, the government said it would not reject any recommendations. But a document from 2018 says the prime minister is not obliged to appoint every nominee.

Opposition lawmakers have spoken with former leaders of the council to get their views on the matter. They include Onishi Takashi. On Friday, he said government officials in the past had asked him about how the nomination process was proceeding, and expressed displeasure about a particular candidate.

He also said, "If the government applies a different criteria from the council's selection standard and turns down nominees, it will be illegal."

British science magazine Nature referred to the issue in an editorial. It says politicians around the world are pushing back against the centuries-old principle of protecting academic freedom.

It also says politicians endanger the health of people, the environment and societies if they do not respect scholarly autonomy.

News source: NHK
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