Journalism and Genocide

| November 4, 2002

Journalism and Genocide

'To understand why three journalists from Rwanda are on trial for war crimes,' explains Dina Temple-Raston of the Columbia Journalism Review, 'one must know that, in rural areas of that country, radio is king.' That leaves a big responsibility for radio journalists, a responsibility that they exploited by urging listeners to kill the Tutsi minority before and during the 1994 genocide.

Prior to the killings, Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, founders of talk radio station Radio Milles Collines, and Hassan Ngeze, editor of the extremist paper, Kangura, told anti-Tutsi jokes, played songs that hinted at killing Tutsi, and told the Hutu majority to 'show no mercy to the Tutsi minority, which was plotting to seize power in Rwanda.' When the killing spree began, Radio Milles Collines announced where important Tutsi were hiding, their license plate numbers, and called for the government to supply the Hutu with weapons to kill the Tutsi.

These three are the first journalists to be accused of crimes against humanity since Der Sturmer writer Julius Streicher during the Nazi regime. And while the verdict will be on the journalists, the outcome will certainly question the responsibilities of a free press.
--Abbie Jarman
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