U.N. vs. Hate Radio


"Hate Radio" wasn't just a derogatory term in pre-genocide Rwanda, but an actual station, along with "Radio Machete." A U.N. tribunal for Rwanda has convicted three men for their participation in these radio stations.

An exerpt from the Washington Times' account: "The 'media trials' marked the first time since Nuremburg that hate speech has been prosecuted as a war crime. It has been one of the most closely watched cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), seated in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha.
'You were fully aware of the power of words, and you used the radio—the medium of communication with the widest public reach—to disseminate hatred and violence,' wrote presiding Judge Navanethem Pillay in sentencing to life in prison Ferdinand Nahimana, founder of Radio Television des Mille Collines.
'Without a firearm, machete or any physical weapon, you caused the death of thousands of innocent civilians.'

Further on in the story: "'This is the first time that journalists have been convicted for their participation in genocide, and I think it's a wake-up call to hatemongers everywhere that they can't incite people to commit genocide or ethnic cleansing,' said Reed Brody, legal counsel to Human Rights Watch. 'If you fan the flames, you'll have to face the consequences.'
Karin Karlekar, the managing editor of Freedom House's annual survey of press freedom, praised the convictions but warned that some governments might use the verdict as a justification to clamp down on media in their own countries.
'Rwanda has already begun doing it,' she said. 'These guys were way over the line, but it's the gray area [of public speech] that is endangered, especially in countries with racial or ethnic tension.'"

When mere verbal incitement leads to as much culpability as actually committing a crime is an interesting and complicated issue–and I lean toward a free-speech absolutism myself–but even those who agree with this particular verdict might be feeling a bit of that old-fashioned chill on the back of their necks about the implications of this decision.