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Scholars and artists in Japan are increasingly protesting against Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s recent rejection of six nominees to the Science Council of Japan.

A campaign condemning Suga’s move while referring to the country’s wartime suppression of free speech has collected some 140,000 signatures.

Rejecting certain researchers will destroy the whole concept of the council, the campaign said, demanding Suga retract the decision.

“We should not repeat mistakes,” said Takahisa Furukawa, professor of modern Japanese history at Nihon University who is one of the organizers of the campaign.

Suga’s rejection of the nominees is political intervention in the academic field, Furukawa said. “Once allowed, it will be done again,” he said.

The number of Twitter posts with the hashtag “protest against intervention in the personnel affairs of the Science Council of Japan” has topped 250,000 several days after Suga’s rejection of the nominees came to light on Oct. 1.

Those who tweeted with the hashtag included television personality LaSalle Ishii, writer Seiko Ito and novelist Yuka Murayama.

Murayama’s series of tweets, including the one that said the right of appointment is not the right to oversee personnel affairs, have been retweeted over 9,000 times.

Scriptwriter Junich Inoue said, “This is an issue related to not only academic freedom but also the freedom of expression and speech.”

Suga’s claim that members of the council need comprehensive and panoramic perspectives does not make sense, said Inoue, a film industry worker who released a statement of protest against the prime minister’s move. Inoue described Suga as “arrogant and dishonest.”

On the government’s plan to reform the council, Inoue said, “The problem of the organization has nothing to do with the six rejected nominees.”

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