Rwanda suspends BBC Kinyarwanda service

Saturday October 25 2014

A screen grab of the BBC Kinyarwanda service. PHOTO | COURTESY

Rwanda suspended transmission of British Broadcasting (BBC) Kinyarwanda service on Friday with immediate effect. The ban follows the BBC documentary film “Rwanda: The Untold Story” which has sparked fury among Rwandans who accuse the British Broadcaster of denying the genocide.

The suspension was announced by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), the industry’s regulator which said “Rwandans had overwhelmingly called for the suspension of BBC transmission.”

“The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) has this evening suspended all local language (Kinyarwanda) BBC radio programs with immediate effect.

“Over the last three weeks, RURA has received 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 statement briefly reads.

RURA said it will further establish investigations into the allegations.

The decision follows complaints from parliamentary sessions that unanimously called for the suspension of the BBC as well as civil society protests against genocide denial and revisionism displayed in the documentary. The findings of the inquiry will determine further actions to be taken.


READ: BBC film direct attack on govt, says minister

Earlier on Friday, close to 2000 women from the National Women’s Council and Profemme Twese Hamwe, a local NGO which brings together women association held a protest targeting BBC head offices in Kigali.

Rwanda Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo described the documentary released on October 1, which advances a different narrative of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, as a direct attack on the country and its leadership. It was aired on BBC Two as part of its This World series.

In the documentary, BBC investigative journalist Jane Corbin claims to have unearthed the role of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) in triggering the genocide, advancing theories that Kigali says are tantamount to denying or trivialising the genocide.

“That documentary is an insult to reasonable people’s intelligence, it is a direct attack on this country, its entire leadership and its history, as well as a shameless revision of the 1994 genocide,” Ms Mushikiwabo told The EastAfrican earlier.

Several protests have been held against the BBC with demands that it should apologise to Rwandans for revising the history of the genocide.
The President of the Senate Bernard Makuza described the BBC documentary as an attempt to rewrite history and mislead the world about what happened in Rwanda in 1994, which is well known to the world.

It is not the first time Rwanda has suspend BBC Kinyarwanda broadcasts. In 2009, Rwanda banned BBC’s Kinyarwanda service for what it called biased reports concerning the genocide.

The ban was, however, lifted after two months following negotiations between the government and the broadcaster, with Ms Mushikiwabo, who was then minister of information, warning that BBC broadcasts would likely be “definitively and unconditionally” banned if it did not reconsider its editorial approach to genocide.

However, a BBC spokesperson said the broadcaster had no intention to deny the 1994 genocide.

“The BBC strongly refutes the suggestion that any part of the programme constitutes a ‘denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi.’ There are repeated references to the mass killings of Tutsis by Hutus in 1994 and that this constituted genocide,” a statement from the BBC released Friday reads.

“The programme also includes an interview with the director of the Genocide Museum at Murambi, a Tutsi and genocide survivor, and a convicted Hutu genocidaire who spoke of his part in the killing of thousands of Tutsis,” it adds.