Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines

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

The station's name is French for "Thousand Hills Independent 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. [ [http://www.radionetherlands.nl/features/media/dossiers/rwanda-h.html Hate Radio: Rwanda - Radio Netherlands Worldwide - English ] ]

Widely listened to by the general population, it projected hate propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission UNAMIR. It is widely regarded as having played a crucial role in creating the atmosphere of charged racial hostility that allowed the genocide to occur.

Prior to the Genocide

RTLM was established in 1993, primarily railing against on-going peacetalks between President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose family supported the radio station, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/749079.stm BBC News | AFRICA | 'Hate radio' journalist confesses ] ] and the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3257748.stm BBC NEWS | World | Africa | The impact of hate media in Rwanda ] ] It became a popular station since it offered frequent contemporary musical selections, unlike the staid state radio, and quickly developed a faithful audience among youth-aged Rwandans, who later made up the bulk of the Interahamwe militia.

The station is considered to have preyed upon deep animosities and prejudices between the Hutu and Tutsi populations. The hateful rhetoric was placed alongside the sophisticated use of humor and popular Zairean music.

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 Dar-Es-Salaam joint communiqué. [ [http://www.radionetherlands.nl/features/media/dossiers/rwanda-h.html Hate Radio: Rwanda - Radio Netherlands Worldwide - English ] ] 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 Romeo Dallaire for failing to prevent the killing of approximately 50 people in a UN-demilitarized zone [ [http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList413/5F371AF2BE65FEC3C1256E63005FC762 Rwanda 1994: "...kill as many people as you want, you cannot kill their memory" ] ]

After President 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'. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3257748.stm BBC NEWS | World | Africa | The impact of hate media in Rwanda ] ]

During the Genocide

Following the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, the first relief workers on the scene reported seeing hundreds of Hutus fleeing their villages with little more than the clothes on their backs and transistor radios pressed to their ears. Fact|date=February 2007

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.Fact|date=June 2007

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

Individuals associated with the station

*Félicien Kabuga, president
*Ferdinand Nahimana, director
*Jean Bosco Barayagwiza
*Gaspard Gahigi, editor-in-chief
*Phocas Hahimana, day-to-day manager
*Georges Ruggiu, broadcaster

After-effects

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

On August 19, 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. The case is currently on appeal.

In film

In the film "Hotel Rwanda", Radio Télévision Libre de Mille Collines is fictionalized as Hutu Power Radio, however, on the first time that viewers were able to listen to the broadcasts, the announcer signs off as RTLM, Hutu Power Radio. In the film's opening credits, a person tuning a shortwave radio can be heard. We briefly hear international broadcasts relating to the situation in Rwanda, until the person tunes to RTLM.

In the film "Sometimes in April" the main character's brother was an active participant in the activities of RTLM.Controversy developed when attempting to prosecute radio broadcasters because of free speech issues.

Political crisis in Belgium

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme has compared the French-Belgian public television RTBF to Radio Mille Collines.

External links

* [http://www2.rnw.nl/rnw/en/features/media/dossiers/rwanda-h.html "Hate Radio:Rwanda"] - part of a Radio Netherlands dossier on "Counteracting Hate Radio"

References


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