A landmark, three year trial that dealt with the role of the media in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 in which an estimated 800,000 people died, has resulted in the jailing for life of two Rwandan journalists. The trial claimed the media played a major role in inciting extremists from the Hutu majority to carry out the 100-day slaughter of ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus


“All three defendants were found guilty of genocide, incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity,” International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda spokesman Bocar Sy told Reuters from the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha.

Ferdinand Nahimana, 53, a founding member of Radio Television Libres des Mille Collines (RTLM), was sentenced to life in prison along with Hassan Ngeze, 42, owner and editor of the Hutu extremist newspaper Kangura.

Life in prison is the most severe penalty the tribunal can hand down.

“Nahimana chose a path of genocide and betrayed the trust placed in him as an intellectual and a leader,” Presiding Judge Navanethem Pillay said. “He caused the deaths of thousands of civilians without a firearm.”

The third defendant, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, 53, who was also a founder of RTLM and public affairs director in Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

“RTLM broadcasts were a drumbeat calling on listeners to take action against Tutsis,” Judge Pillay said. “RTLM spread petrol throughout the country little by little, so that one day it would be able to set fire to the whole country,” he said.

RTLM, established in April 1993, became known as “hate radio” and many of its journalists were accused of preaching ethnic hatred and encouraging Hutus, who make up about 85 percent of the population, to massacre Tutsis.

The court heard how from April 1994, RTLM incited the killers using expressions like “go work,” “go clean” and “the graves are not yet full.”

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