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Because of the way mainstream media work in Japan, significant stories sometimes seem to emerge from nowhere. The news that the Cabinet had rejected six nominees for the Science Council of Japan was actually broken by Akahata, the press organ of the Japanese Communist Party. As a perennial left-wing opposition force that no one expects to ever lead the government, the Japanese Communist Party is, by definition, against whoever is in power, and so its reporting is, also by definition, politically motivated. Akahata looks for something that places the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a bad light, and the mainstream press, which doesn’t always have the wherewithal to notice the importance of such matters, is happy to tag along.

So Akahata provided the initial narrative, which went like this: The new administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga ignored a rubber stamp process in order to prevent a handful of scholars from joining an independent policy advisory group, supposedly because the six candidates publicly opposed a government bill several years ago. By refusing to appoint these scholars for political reasons, the government is violating their academic freedom. The mainstream press has characterized the controversy as being mainly about legality, in that there is nothing in the law that allows the Cabinet to reject these nominees. However, Suga insists he is taking the verb “appoint” — ninmei suru — literally. He just refuses to explain his reasons fully, thus adding fuel to the fire.

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