BBC rejects Rwanda criticism over genocide documentary

1st March 2015, Comments 0 comments

The BBC on Sunday strongly rejected findings by Rwandan investigators that it had broken the country's law on genocide denial with a documentary on the 1994 massacres screened last year in Britain.

The British broadcaster said it was "extremely disappointed" by the conclusions of a probe led by former Rwandan top prosecutor Martin Ngoga, and said it stood by its journalism.

"Rwanda, The Untold Story" questioned official versions of the genocide that left about 800,000 people dead, and highlighted criticism over Rwandan President Paul Kagame's alleged role in events.

The programme revived allegations that Kagame's Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) -- then a rebel group, now the ruling political party -- was behind the downing of a plane carrying the country's Hutu president at the time, an event that triggered the genocide against primarily Tutsi victims.

In the findings published on Saturday, Ngoga urged the Rwandan government to take action against the BBC and ban its radio programmes from the country's airwaves.

"We are extremely disappointed by the findings of this commission," a BBC spokeswoman said.

"While we do not yet know the full implications for the BBC in Rwanda, we stand by our right to produce the independent journalism which has made us the world's most trusted news source."

She said complaints about the programme, produced in London and shown on the BBC2 television channel in October, were going through a "robust" editorial review process.

"This process has not yet concluded but the provisional findings are that the documentary does not breach the BBC's editorial standards," she said.

"We strongly reject any suggestion that any part of this documentary constitutes genocide denial."

Ngoga contended the BBC had "abused press freedom and free speech, violated its own editorial guidelines (and) transgressed journalistic standards."

He recommended that Rwanda "initiate criminal and civil process to deal with identified offences."

He also advised Rwanda to terminate the agreement that allows the BBC to broadcast on the country's airwaves. BBC radio services in the local Kinyarwanda language have been blocked since the programme was broadcast.

Prominent international academics, experts and diplomats have also accused the BBC of being "recklessly irresponsible" by allegedly promoting a revisionist account of the genocide in the documentary, notably by questioning the number of Tutsis killed.

The head of Rwanda's Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) said regulators would carefully study the results of the probe before deciding the best course of action.

© 2015 AFP

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