A Christian university in Sapporo decided last week to retain former Asahi Shimun reporter Takashi Uemura as a part-time instructor in the face of an onslaught of threats made against him and the university. The threats were part of a larger attack on the Asahi Shimbun over its reporting on the issue of “comfort women.” While the university deserves praise for its courage, it must not be forgotten that the pressure was so great that the university almost caved in and terminated its ties with Uemura. The lesson is that all citizens concerned with upholding fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and the autonomy of universities must strengthen their cooperation to repel threats by social elements that detest any attempt to closely examine Japan’s wartime behavior.

Uemura, who started teaching at Hokusei Gakuen University in April 2012, wrote an Asahi Shimbun article in 1991 reporting on the testimony by a former Korean comfort woman, the first newspaper article of its kind to be published in Japan. From March this year, the university began being deluged with faxes and email protesting the articles he wrote on the issue. In May and July, the university received threats demanding Uemura’s dismissal and threatening to harm students at the school by setting off a nail bomb. In a related development, a Christian university in Kobe that was to employ Uemura as a professor from April rescinded its offer.

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