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Political Intervention in Academic Affairs is Wrong

22 October 2020

An Open Letter to the Japanese Prime Minister

To: Mr. Yoshihide Suga

Prime Minister of Japan, Tokyo, Japan

From: Japan Society for Afrasian Studies (JSAS), Kyoto, Japan

Subject: Political Intervention in Academic Appointments is Wrong

It is widely believed that your recent decision to reject some of the nominees to the Science Council of Japan was because of their previous criticism of the central government. If that was indeed the case, we write to join our colleagues in other academic societies as well as all the freedom-loving people of Japan in expressing our protest against your action.

Although the SCJ was established under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister, it operates independently of the government, and this independence must be protected if the SCJ, and any other academic bodies, are to reach their goals of strengthening and enhancing the intellectual foundation of the nation.

Knowledge is freedom, and it must be nurtured in freedom. The consequences of government meddling in the activities, findings, and indeed, organization of scientific bodies, can be serious. Policy-makers are not sometimes likely to agree with the usually science-based opinions and positions of academics, but they have no right to suppress their freedoms of speech.

As a body engaged in a discourse on issues affecting both Asia and Africa, we at JSAS, especially those of us who come from Africa, believe that Japan should not be admired only for her industrial prowess and business acumen. The Land of the Rising Sun needs to continue to show the world that she is also a leader in promoting scholarly independence and other freedoms.

Mr. Prime Minister, please rescind your decision.


Vick Ssali, Ph.D.


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