BBC faces new attacks over Rwandan genocide film

| November 25, 2014
Hundreds of protestors in Rwanda’s Eastern Province march in their respective districts to denounce “Rwanda's Untold Story,” a film which aired on the BBC on Oct. 1.

Hundreds of protestors in Rwanda’s Eastern Province march in their respective districts to denounce “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” a film which aired on the BBC on Oct. 1.

(GIN)–Pressure continues to build over a BBC documentary that challenges the generally accepted story of the Rwandan genocide, and questions whether Rwandan President Paul Kagame was a peacemaker or contributor to a horrific mass murder.

This weekend, hundreds of protesters in Rwanda’s Eastern Province marched in their respective districts to denounce “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” a film which aired on the BBC on Oct. 1, saying it promoted the views of genocide deniers.

Press freedom groups such as the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) came to the defense of the film which discusses the events leading up to—and during—the genocide of Rwandan Tutsi in 1994. “The film interviews a number of people who argue that the widely accepted narrative of the tragedy is inaccurate,” wrote the IFJ in a press statement.

“It is understandable that reporting on a sensitive topic such as the genocide can give rise to strong views from members of the affected communities,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director.

“But, the ban on BBC radio programs (imposed by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency) not only denies people access to information but also undermines the trust between the BBC and the Rwandan government which is necessary to work through their differences.”

One of the central points of the film is that the official ending of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 did not end mass killings both in Rwanda and outside of Rwanda (i.e. in the DRC). The BBC goes deep and finds Rwandans who live in hiding in order to get answers to what happened in 1994 and to the continued mass killings, assassinations, imprisonment, and forced exiles, writes author and historian Yaa-Lengi Ngemi.

But, one of the film’s harsher critics, researcher Andrew Wallis writing on the website Open Democracy called it so fatally flawed that it raised serious questions over the BBC’s ethics and standards.

“It is not often a documentary comes along that totally reattributes the historical reality of a genocide in a mere one hour,” Wallis wrote. “Twenty years of scholarly research was pushed aside.”

The uproar has escalated in the UK, where the Parliament on Nov. 6 accused the BBC of denying the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda and called for an investigation.

Still, there is very little that is “new” in the film, said human rights lawyer Peter Erlinder. “Most of the sources and documentary evidence has been available for years and has been hiding in plain sight. Much of it can be found in the records of the UN Tribunal for Rwanda, although this database has been made virtually impenetrable for the untrained.”

“We should think for ourselves and reach our own conclusions when faced with what BBC calls “extremely painful issues,” said Yaa-Lengi, president of the NY-based Congo Coalition. “The only way to do this is to contemplate different points of views with an expanded field of facts and of proofs.”

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Category: Africa Briefs

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