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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 June 12 - 18  > Researchers concerned about decline in academic freedom by SLAPP lawsuit
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2013 June 12 - 18 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Researchers concerned about decline in academic freedom by SLAPP lawsuit

June 14, 2013
A holding company and an investment fund have filed a defamation lawsuit against Nonaka Ikue, professor at Meiji University, for her scholarly paper providing insights into what investment funds are up to.

Scholars and researchers have been concerned that the suit filed in July 2012 may lead to the threatening of academic freedom and freedom of research.

Corporations on some occasions sue against journalists, lawyers, public institutions, or citizens’ organizations who speak up against illegal corporate activities, to seek an enormous amount of money in compensation for defamation as a way to intimidate or silence them. This kind of lawsuit is called a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP).

Nonaka in June 2011 published an article titled, “Unfair finance and incident involving Showa Rubber Co., Ltd. - paralysis of market regulation functions being called into question”, in an economic journal.

She compiled the paper after analyzing and studying business conditions of Showa Rubber (currently Showa Holdings Co., Ltd.) and Asia Partnership Fund (virtually controlling Showa HD) as well as the flow of about three billion yen in funds transferred from Showa Rubber to APF in 2008 in a short period of time.

Showa HD and APF are, however, arguing that the paper along with the expert opinion she submitted to the Tokyo Labor Relations Commission constitute libel.

Regarding the event in which the three billion yen had been suspected to drive Showa Rubber into bankruptcy, the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission in June 2010 made a compulsory inspection of Showa HD on charges of a fictitious increase in stocks and the existence of fraudulent deals.

Nonaka said, “If we are sued because our academic papers point questions concerning investment funds, research in many fields will be stifled.”

Professor at Chuo University Yoneda Mitsugu of the Japan Scientists Association said, “This is a typical SLAPP lawsuit. They are trying to suppress the release of study results which would be disadvantageous to corporations by suing for compensation. It is an intolerable challenge to academic freedom pursuing truth and is an unreasonable attack against not only Nonaka alone but also the academic world and researchers as a whole.”

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