Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines

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Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) was a Rwandan radio station which broadcast from July 8, 1993 to July 31, 1994. It played a significant role during the April–July 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

The station's name is French for "Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television", deriving from the description of Rwanda as "Land of a Thousand Hills". It received support from the government-controlled Radio Rwanda, which initially allowed it to transmit using their equipment.[1]

Widely listened to by the general population, it projected racist propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission UNAMIR. It is widely regarded by many Rwandan citizens (a view also shared and expressed by the UN war crimes tribunal) as having played a crucial role in creating the atmosphere of charged racial hostility that allowed the genocide to occur. A study by a Harvard University researcher estimates that 9.9% of the participation in the genocidal violence was due to the broadcasts. The estimate of the study suggests that approximately 51,000 deaths were caused by the station's broadcasts.[2] A working paper published at Harvard University found that RTLM broadcasts were an important part of the process of mobilising the population, which complemented the mandatory Umuganda meetings.[3]

Prior to the Genocide[edit]

And you people who live... near Rugunga... go out. You will see the cockroaches' (inkotanyi) straw huts in the marsh... I think that those who have guns should immediately go to these cockroaches... encircle them and kill them..."

Kantano Habimana on RTLM, April 12, 1994[4]

Planning for RTLM begun in 1992 by Hutu hard-liners, in response to the increasingly non-partisan stance of Radio Rwanda and growing popularity of Rwandan Patriotic Front's (RPF) Radio Muhabura.[5] RTLM was established the next year, and began broadcasting in July 1993.[6] The station railed against the on-going peace talks between the predominantly Tutsi RPF and President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose family supported the radio station.[7][8] It became a popular station since it offered frequent contemporary musical selections, unlike state radio, and quickly developed a faithful audience among youth-aged Rwandans, who later made up the bulk of the Interahamwe militia.

Félicien Kabuga was allegedly heavily involved in the founding and bankrolling of RTLM, as well as Kangura magazine.[9][10] In 1993, at an RTLM fundraising meeting organized by the MRND, Felicien Kabuga allegedly publicly defined the purpose of RTLM as the defence of Hutu Power.[11]

The station is considered to have preyed upon the deep animosities and prejudices of many Hutus. The hateful rhetoric was placed alongside the sophisticated use of humor and popular Zairean music. It frequently referred to Tutsis as "cockroaches" (example: "You [Tutsis] are cockroaches! We will kill you!").

Critics claim that the Rwandan government fostered the creation of RTLM as "Hate Radio", to circumvent the fact they had committed themselves to a ban against "harmful radio propaganda" in the UN's March 1993 joint communiqué in Dar es Salaam.[1] However RTLM director Ferdinand Nahimana claimed that the station was founded primarily to counter the propaganda by RPF's Radio Muhabura.

In January 1994, the station broadcast messages berating UNAMIR commander Roméo Dallaire for failing to prevent the killing of approximately 50 people in a UN-demilitarized zone.[12]

After Habyarimana's private plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, RTLM joined the chorus of voices blaming Tutsi rebels, and began calling for a "final war" to "exterminate" the Tutsi. The code word was 'cut down the tall trees'.[8] RTLM played classical music in the time immediately after the crash.

During the Genocide[edit]

During the Genocide, the RTLM acted as a source for propaganda by inciting hatred and violence against Tutsis, against Hutus who were for the peace accord, against Hutus who married Tutsis, and by advocating the annihilation of all Tutsis in Rwanda. The RTLM reported the latest massacres, victories, and political event in a way that promoted their anti-Tutsi agenda. In an attempt to dehumanize and degrade, the RTLM consistently referred to Tutsis and the RPF as 'cockroaches' during their broadcasts.[13] The music of Hutu Simon Bikindi was played frequently. He had two songs, Bene Sebahinzi (Sons of the Father of the Farmers), and Nanga Abahutu (I Hate Hutus), which were later interpreted as inciting hatred and genocide.[14]

One of the major reasons that RTLM was so successful in communication was because other forms of news sources such as televisions and newspapers were not able to be as popularized because of lack of resources. In addition to this communication barrier, areas where there was high rates of illiteracy and lack of education amongst the citizens remain some of the most violent areas during the genocide. [15] The villages outside of the transmission zone of RTLM experienced spillover violence from villages that actually received the radio transmissions. An estimated 10% of all the violence within the Rwandan Genocide is resulted from the hateful radio transmissions sent out from RTLM. Not only did RTLM increase general violence, but full radio coverage areas increased the number of persons prosecuted for any violence by about 62-69%. [16]

Following the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, the first relief workers on the scene reported seeing hundreds of Tutsi fleeing their villages with little more than the clothes on their backs and transistor radios pressed to their ears.[citation needed]

As the genocide was taking place, the United States military drafted a plan to jam RTLM's broadcasts, but this action was never taken because of the cost of the operation and the legal implications of interfering with Rwanda's sovereignty.[17]

When French forces entered Rwanda during Opération Turquoise which was ostensibly to provide a safe zone for those escaping the genocide but was alleged to be in support of the Hutu-dominated interim government, RTLM broadcast from Gisenyi, calling on 'you Hutu girls to wash yourselves and put on a good dress to welcome our French allies. The Tutsi girls are all dead, so you have your chance.'[18]

When the Tutsi-led RPF army won control of the country in July, RTLM took mobile equipment and fled to Zaire with Hutu refugees.

Individuals associated with the station[edit]

From left to right; Rwandan journalists Kantano Habimana and Noël Hitimana, convicted of inciting violence during the 1994 genocide.

After-effects[edit]

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda's action against RTLM began on 23 October 2000 – along with the trial of Hassan Ngeze, director and editor of the Kangura magazine.

On 19 August 2003, at the tribunal in Arusha, life sentences were requested for RTLM leaders Ferdinand Nahimana, and Jean Bosco Barayagwiza. They were charged with genocide, incitement to genocide, and crimes against humanity, before and during the period of the genocides of 1994.

On 3 December 2003, the court found all three defendants guilty and sentenced Nahimana and Ngeze to life imprisonment and Barayagwiza to imprisonment for 35 years - this was appealed. The Appeal judgment, issued on 27 November 2007 reduced the sentences of all three - Nahimana getting 30 years, Barayagwiza getting 32 and Ngeze getting 35, with the court overturning convictions on certain counts.

On 14 December 2009, RTLM announcer Valérie Bemeriki was convicted by a gacaca court in Rwanda and sentenced to life imprisonment for her role in inciting genocidal acts.

Cultural references[edit]

Dramatised RTLM broadcasts are heard in Hotel Rwanda.

In the film Sometimes in April the main character's brother is an employee of RTLM. Controversy develops when attempting to prosecute radio broadcasters because of free speech issues.

The film Shooting Dogs makes use of recordings from RTLM.

The title of The New York Times journalist Bill Berkeley's novel, The Graves are Not Yet Full (2001), is taken from a notorious RTLM broadcast in Kigali, 1994: “You have missed some of the enemies. You must go back there and finish them off. The graves are not yet full!”[21]

The Swiss theatre maker Milo Rau 're-enacted' an RTLM radio broadcast in his play Hate Radio, which premièred in 2011 and featured on the Berliner Festspiele in 2012 (with audience discussion).[22] He also made it into a radio-play and a film and wrote a book about it.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hate Radio: Rwanda at the Wayback Machine (archive index)
  2. ^ Yanagizawa-Drott, D. (2014). Propaganda and conflict: Evidence from the Rwandan genocide. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129(4), 1947-1994.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-09-11. Retrieved 2017-09-11. 
  4. ^ UN transcript & ICTR-99-52-T; P103/2B, p. 2.
  5. ^ Des Forges, Alison (March 1999). Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda – Propaganda and Practice → The Media. New York: Human Rights Watch. ISBN 1-56432-171-1. 
  6. ^ Thierry, Cruvellier (2010). Court of Remorse: Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. University of Wisconsin Press. p. xii. ISBN 9780299236748. 
  7. ^ 'Hate radio' journalist confesses from BBC News | AFRICA
  8. ^ a b The impact of hate media in Rwanda from BBC News | AFRICA
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-07. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  10. ^ NTV Kenya: In the Footsteps of Kabuga; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gpxy4NxqboQ&feature=relmfu
  11. ^ ICTR Case No. 99-52-T; The Prosecutor against Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, Amended Indictment, pg. 19, 6.4; http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/ICTR/BARAYAGWIZA_ICTR-99-52/Judgment_&_Sentence_ICTR-99-52-T.pdf
  12. ^ "...kill as many people as you want, you cannot kill their memory"[dead link] from the website of the International Committee of the Red Cross
  13. ^ "042 - Loose Tape RTLM 68". Concordia University. Retrieved 12 October 2017. 
  14. ^ McNeil Jr, Donald G. (17 March 2002). "Killer Songs". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Hatzfeld, Jean (2005). Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 
  16. ^ Yanagizawa-Drott, David (November 21, 2014). "Propaganda and Conflict: Evidence from the Rwandan Genocide". The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 129 (4). Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  17. ^ Power, Samantha (September 2001). "Bystanders to Genocide". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  18. ^ Martin Meredith, The State of Africa, Chapter 27 (The Free Press, London, 2005)
  19. ^ ICTR-99-52-T Prosecution Exhibit P 91B; "A DOCUMENT TITLED RTLM ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE RUGGIUS REPRESENTATION.PDF"
  20. ^ ICTR-99-52-T; Defense Exhibit 1 D 1 48B; "NAHIMANA - BARAYAGWIZA - NGEZE - STRUCTURE OF RTLM SA." "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-16. Retrieved 2012-07-18. 
  21. ^ Bill Berkeley. The Graves Are Not Yet Full. 
  22. ^ Hate Radio, Archiv Theatertreffen Berliner Festspiele
  23. ^ „Es gab kein Fernsehen“, interview with Milo Raus by Jan Drees, der Freitag, 8 April 2014

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]