On December 3rd, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, convicted three Rwandan journalists of using the media to incite mass murder. The Tribunal was set up shortly after the 1994 genocide in which Hutu extremists in Rwanda turned against ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Hassan Ngeze, editor of the magazine, “Kangura,” was sentenced to life in prison for urging his Hutu readers to murder Tutsis. Also receiving a life sentence was Ferdinand Nahimana, founder and manager of Rwanda's’ Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines.
Navanethem Pillay, the presiding judge, said that Nahimana was “fully aware of the power of words, and. . . .used the radio, the medium of communication with the widest public reach, to disseminate hatred and violence.” The station had directed Hutu listeners to attack specific Tutsi targets. Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, the station’s co-founder was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison.
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli says that “the court ruled that there was a clear link between criminal use of the media and [the] massacres”:
“I would note that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted three media leaders. They were convicted of genocide, incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity for the direct role they played through radio and newspaper broadcasts and articles in spurring the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which over eight-hundred-thousand people were killed. The tribunal ruled clearly that these public incitements led directly to massacres and that they violated international humanitarian law. Such acts, the court ruled, are intolerable uses of the media.”
“This ruling,” says State Department spokesman Ereli, “is a warning worldwide that those who would commit such acts will face justice.”