The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for the ban to be lifted on BBC radio broadcasts in the local language in Rwanda.
Last week, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Body (RURA), a government body, banned the BBC’s local broadcasts, citing ” complaints of incitement, hatred, divisionism, genocide denial and revision from the public following the documentary aired by BBC on 1 October, 2014 titled: Rwanda – The Untold Story - and other violations of journalistic responsibility spanning a number of years.”
The BBC documentary discussed the events leading up to – and during - the genocide of Rwandan Tutsi in 1994 and interviewed a number of people who argued that the widely accepted narrative of the tragedy is inaccurate. The Rwandan government reacted angrily to allegations made in the programme, accusing the BBC of genocide denial, a charge the BBC refutes.
They include the accusation against President Kagame’s ruling party, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) of having shot down the plane of former President Juvenal Habyarimana which sparked the genocide, the allegation that the RPF did not stop the genocide and a challenge against the official figures of Tutsi killed.
The IFJ says that criticism is an important value in professional journalism which can be of most benefit when exercised through open, tolerant and respectful dialogue between media and the public.
“It is understandable that reporting on a sensitive topic such as the genocide can give rise to strong views from members of the affected communities and the BBC needs to listen to views of people in Rwanda,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director.
“But it is also important to avoid any measure likely to escalate the situation further. The ban on BBC radio programmes not only denies people access to information but also undermines the trust between the BBC and the Rwandan government which is necessary to work through their differences.”