Rwanda bans BBC broadcasts over genocide documentary

Describing Karake as a "freedom fighter" Paul Kagame (pictured) accused European countries of racism and seeking to humiliate Rwanda -- and other Africans -- in order to veil their own complicity in the 1994 genocide (AFP Photo/Zacharias Abubeker) (AFP/File)

Kigali (AFP) - Rwanda on Friday slapped an indefinite ban on BBC local language broadcasts as punishment for a controversial documentary on the central African country's leadership and the 1994 genocide.

The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) said the BBC radio services in the local Kinyarwanda language that are broadcast locally would be halted and the affair referred to the country's prosecutor-general.

The BBC documentary, "Rwanda's Untold Story", was broadcast in October last year, and RURA said it violated laws against "genocide denial and revisionism" and "inciting hatred and divisionism among Rwandans".

The documentary focussed on criticism of President Paul Kagame and revived allegations that his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) -- then a rebel group, now the ruling political party -- was behind the shooting down of a plane carrying the country's then Hutu president, an event that marked the start of the genocide.

A statement read out by RURA director Patrick Nyirishema said the "airing of the documentary by the BBC constituted abuse of press freedom and free speech", and that the broadcaster had also "violated its own editorial guidelines, transgressed journalistic standards and violated Rwandan laws."

"The regulatory board unanimously decided that Kinyarwanda programmes of BBC in Rwanda will be indefinitely suspended. BBC will continue to air other programmes subject to compliance with Rwandan laws, regulations and licensing requirements. The identified offences are to be transmitted to the prosecutor-general for consideration and appropriate action," the statement said.

An estimated 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, were killed in just 100 days by Hutu extremists -- a rate of killing that was far faster than the Holocaust in World War II.

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 who were killed.

The BBC has rejected the criticism and has said it stood by its journalism.

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