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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 14:54 GMT
The impact of hate media in Rwanda
By Russell Smith
BBC News Online Africa editor

The United Nations tribunal in Arusha has convicted three former media executives of being key figures in the media campaign to incite ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.

Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza
The 'Hate media' trial began in 2000
It is widely believed that so-called hate media had a significant part to play in the genocide, during which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.

There is also little doubt that its legacy continues to exert a strong influence on the country.

The most prominent hate media outlet was the private radio station, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines.


It was established in 1993 and opposed peace talks between the government of President Juvenal Habyarimana and the Tutsi-led rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which now forms the government.

After President Habyarimana's plane was shot down, the radio called for a "final war" to "exterminate the cockroaches."

Some skulls of Rwandans massacred in the 1994 genocide
About 800,000 people died in Rwanda's 100-day genocide in 1994
During the genocide that followed it broadcast lists of people to be killed and instructed killers on where to find them.

The BBC's Ally Mugenzi worked as a journalist in Rwanda during the genocide and says there was no doubting the influence of the RTLM.

"RTLM acted as if it was giving instructions to the killers. It was giving directions on air as to where people were hiding," he said.

He himself said he had a narrow escape after broadcasting a report on the Rwandan media for the BBC.

They announced on the radio he had lied about them and summoned him to the station to explain himself. He spent three hours there, justifying his report.

General Romeo Dallaire, the commander of the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, said: "Simply jamming [the] broadcasts and replacing them with messages of peace and reconciliation would have had a significant impact on the course of events."

As the Tutsi forces advanced through the country during 1994, the broadcasters of Radio Mille Collines fled across the border into what was then Zaire.


Prosecutors in the Tanzanian town of Arusha at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda argued that RTLM played a key role in the genocide during the trial of the radio's top executives Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza and Ferdinand Nahimana.

Mr Barayagwiza boycotted the trial and was sentenced to 35 years. Mr Nahimana was given life in prison.

Hassan Ngeze, who ran an extremist magazine called Kangura was also sentenced to life.

Judge Lloyd Williams of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
The tribunal has secured just a dozen convictions in a decade
Their defence relied on the often ambiguous nature of the comments - which they say were aimed at the advancing Tutsi rebels under General Paul Kagame rather than at civilians.

President Kagame's government has used the recent memories of hate media to justify keeping a tight reign on its own media.

Just last week, the country's only independent newspaper, Umeseso, had copies of its newspaper seized and journalists arrested for publishing articles critical of the government.

Rwanda also still lacks a private radio station and the government exerts control over most of the media outlets.

This helped ensure landslide election wins for the RPF during the first post genocide multi-party elections this year.

The government promises to introduce a more open media soon.

There will be many hoping that the hate media verdicts delivered in Arusha on Wednesday will help that process along.

The BBC's Andrew Harding
"The case the prosecution made was that these men were directly involved in the genocide"

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