Case Study 1. Rwandan Genocide

Description: The case is related to the investigation of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda against three Rwandan journalists: Hassan Ngeze, Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. In early 90s of the past century the three of them were spreading hate content via Rwanda’s print and broadcast media, by which they turned the Hutu ethnic group against Tutsi population and caused one of the largest genocides in the world history. 
Facts:  One of Rwanda’s largest newspapers “Kangura”, whose owner and editor-in-chief was Hassan Ngeze, published hate content on a regular basis. For instance, In December 1990, the newspaper released an Article, titled “Appeal to the Conscience of the Hutu”. The Article portrayed Tutsi people as “bloodthirsty” and “extremists”. Every Hutu male who married a Tutsi woman or entered into a business partnership with a Tutsi was deemed a traitor. The Article called on the Hutus to unite against the Tutsis and take no pity on them. The Article’s final words were:

“...The enemy is still there, among us...Hutu, wherever you may be, wake up!..Take all the necessary measures to deter the enemy…”

The cover of “Kangura’s” November 1991 issue had the following text:


“What weapons shall we use to conquer the Inyzenzi [cockroach Tutsi] once and for all??”

Left of this box was a drawing of a machete.

To spread hate content the journalists also used Radio Television Libres des Mille Collines (RTLM), which in 90’s Rwanda was even more popular than newspaper. Rwandans listened to radios at homes, in offices and cars all the time. The most fervent radio listeners were militia members who later were actively involved in the genocide.

Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, chief executives of the radio and repsonsible for its editorial content, reagularly dissseminated hate speech that incited hatred against Tutsi poeple. For example, in one of the broadcasts Barayagwiza compared the mentality of the Tutsi to the mentality of a cockroach whose only aim is to gain power.

Several weeks prior to the commencement of the genocide, the radio systematically broadcasted the names of specific Tutsi representatives and their family members, mostly civilians, and voiced direct indictments for their annihilation. For example, in March 14, 1994 broadcast, a civilian was named to allegedly had been in cooperation with the Tutsis. Identity of his family members were also disclosed. Later, during investigation it became known that the named person and his whole family, including, three children, fell victims of the genocide.

In addition to this, several days before the genocide began, RTLM broadcasted false information about the Tutsis’s alleged plan to attack the Hutu in the upcoming days.

On April 6, 1994, the day before the bloody events unfolded, RTLM called on its listeners to look for “Inyenzi” (cockroach) Tutsis:


“You the people living in Rugunga... look in the woods of Mburabuturo, look carefully, whether there are no Inyenzis inside. Look carefully, check, see whether there are no Inyenzis inside.”


As a result, in April-June 1994 genocide was carried out in Rwanda that resulted in the killing of up to 800 000 ethnic Tutsis.


Decision: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted all three journalists and found them guilty of committing genocide and crimes against humanity, including incitement to commit genocide.

Reasoning: According to the Tribunal’s assessment, it is important to distinguish between a discussion about ethnic identity and creating ethnic hatred. In the Tribunal’s view, the materials published in “Kangura” conveyed contempt and hatred for the Tutsi ethnic group. The outlet portrayed Tutsis as enemies, sew fear against the Tutsi population and incited the Hutus to conquer the Tutsis at any price.

A similar assessment was made by the Tribunal in relation to RTLM broadcasts. In the Tribunal’s view, the radio engaged in ethnic stereotyping in a manner that promoted contempt and hatred for Tutsi population, which intensified several weeks before the genocide. At the same time the Tribunal underlined the significance of radio, as means of mass communication. In Tribunal's view, unlike print media, radio is immediately present and active. Besides, the power of the human voice adds a quality and dimension beyond words. In the present case radio heightened the sense of fear and danger giving rise to the need for action by listeners. According to the Tribunal, the hatred for Tutsi ethnicity was augmented by the ridiculing laugh coming out of the radio.

The Tribunal pointed out that media has a role to play in the protection of democracy and where necessary the mobilization of civil defence for the protection of a nation. However, Kangura’s and RTLM’s initiatives were far from noble as they portrayed Tutsi people as enemies from the very outset and instead of directing their readers and listeners against armed and dangerous, they directed them against Tutsi civilians.

The Tribunal established that killing of Tutsi civilians, at least partly resulted from the materials disseminated by the indicated media sources. According to the Tribunals assessment, through fear-mongering and hate propaganda, ‘Kangura’ paved the way for genocide in Rwanda, whipping the Hutu population into a killing frenzy. Both ‘Kangura’ and RTLM were bullets in a gun whose shots triggered bloody events in Rwanda.

During the hearing, defense attorneys demanded that the United States law, as the most speech protective, should have been used as a standard to assess the statement made by the defendants. The Tribunal took the request into consideration and discussed a case study from the USA case law. In Virginia Black the Supreme Court of the United States established that the practices of burning a cross by Ku-Klux-Klan could not enjoy the protection of freedom of expression guaranteed by the American Constitution as it was used with an intent to intimidate a group of people as a recognized symbol of hate.