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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 December, 2003, 12:43 GMT
Rwandans applaud genocide verdict
Ferdinand Nahimana (l) and Hassan Ngeze (r)
Their lawyers said they were exercising free speech
Rwandans have welcomed the long prison terms given to three media executives for inciting violence against ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

The attorney general said it showed that those who ordered others to kill bore the same responsibility as those who carried out the slaughter.

Two worked for a radio station which broadcast lists of people to be killed and revealed where they could be found.

About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in just 100 days.

Ferdinand Nahimana, who was sentenced to life in prison, and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who got 35 years, helped set up a private radio station - Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) - which urged Hutus to "exterminate the cockroaches".

Bitter memories

One Tutsi student, who did not want to be named, said she remembered listening to RTLM as a child when she was hiding during the genocide.

Some skulls of Rwandans massacred in the 1994 genocide

"My own father's name was pronounced on RTLM. To track him and to kill him by all means," she told the BBC, her voice quivering with emotion.

"And it happened. He's dead," she said.

She said it was important that those people who ran the station faced justice.

"Those who spread the message through the media and told the ordinary people to kill are far worse than people who followed their orders," said attorney general Gerard Gahima.

Precedent

The new chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, which pronounced the verdict, said the verdict would serve as a warning for journalists and editors in other conflicts.

Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza
Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza boycotted the trial
"The tribunal has established an international precedent that those who use media to target a racial or ethnic group for destruction will face justice," he said.

Hassan Ngeze, who was sentenced to life, was the editor of an extremist magazine called Kangura.

Judge Navanathem Pillay told him he had "poisoned the minds of your readers" against Tutsis.

They were all found guilty of genocide, incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity by the tribunal, based in the Tanzanian town of Arusha.

Barayagwiza boycotted the trial, saying it would not be fair.

Defence lawyers for the others had argued that the trial was an attack on free speech and the freedom of the press.




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