The Role of Media in the Rwandan Massacre
Last modified: October 26, 2015
Communication and information have the power not only in the progress and development of humankind, but also in their extermination. The method of preparing content to persuade the audience to change their normal behaviour is a part of Communication Science course and is often one of the research paper topics. Our professional writing services provide with more topics on this and other subjects or can also deliver full custom papers.
Rwanda, the neighbouring country of Zaire, Tanzania and Burundi in Africa, was not much known to the outside world until the massacres began. It was an inter-tribal war between the two tribes Tutsi and Hutu, in which about 800, 000 Tutsi were massacred between April and June 1994 alone by the Hutu. Two ethnic groups that had intermingled socially and lived together peacefully were killing with whatever weapons came into their hands (Kellow & Steeves, 1998). “Media were used in Rwanda to spread hatred, to dehumanize people, and even to guide the genocidaires toward their victims” was the opinion of even the then Secretary General of the UNO Kofi Annan.
The Hutu journal Kangura published the infamous “Hutu Ten Commandments” demanding Hutu power ideologies indoctrination in schools and the institution of a special Hutu army (Melvern, 2004) and instigated the proceedings. But most Rwandans being illiterates and about 90% population being rural, radios were used to reach a wider audience (Chalk, 1999). This one-way communication tool was ideal for disseminating government propaganda, without any talk-backs or criticisms about the political authority. Illiteracy and the oral tradition made people believe that the radio was the voice of the government and they behaved accordingly (Kellow & Steeves, 1998).
In 1992 Radio Rwanda was used to spread misinformation resulting in the massacres of hundreds of Tutsi (Des Forges, 2007) and dramatically proved the power of the radio in setting the rural people against their Tutsi neighbours. A new radio, Radio-Télévision Libre des Collines or RTLM, also called “Hate Radio”, started disseminating hate propaganda against the Tutsi-dominated RPF (Kimani 110), inciting ethnocide and genocide (Chalk, 1999) Their phrase, “amakuru ashushye” meaning ‘we have hot news’ had a Pavlovian effect on the listeners (Monasebian, 2007). This social conditioning of the Rwandan people by the radio is seen as one of the most important movements that led to the genocide later. The RTLM broadcast programs on the ethnic differences of the Hutu and Tutsi, the alien origin of the Tutsi with no rights to Rwandan citizenship, their ostensible affluence as compared to Hutu’s and the terrors during the ancient Tutsi rule. These were aired repeatedly from October 1993 to June 1994, with warnings to the Hutu to prepare for the Tutsi threat (Des Forges, 2007), resulting in the “massacres of the hundred days”.
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