Academic societies in Japan issue joint statement

More than 220 Japanese academic societies of liberal arts have jointly demanded that the government explain why it refused to appoint six nominees for membership in the country's top academic body.

Ten people, including university professors who serve as heads of societies in the fields of humanities and social sciences, released the joint statement at a news conference on Friday.

The government refused to appoint the six nominees as members of the Science Council of Japan, sparking criticism that it is infringing academic freedom. The six nominated scholars, who were proposed by the council, are all from the humanities and social science fields.

As of Friday, 226 societies of liberal arts fields including philosophy, literature, and historical science have joined or supported the statement. They are demanding that the government explain the reason for its rejection and appoint the six nominees.

Professor Emeritus Noe Keiichi of Tohoku University said humanities and social sciences can develop only in an environment where free debate is held, in which various opinions can be expressed. He said the current situation aims to contain critical debates, which are the lifeline of academics.

Professor Sato Izumi of Aoyama Gakuin University said the issue concerns not just scholars but the entire society. Sato said she fears the government's decision may lead to a decline and self-restraint in freedom of thought, speech and expression.

The staff who helped put together the statement said it is the first time for such societies to express their opinion jointly in this magnitude beyond the boundaries of their research fields.