EDITORIAL: Rusesabagina: Media have a duty to fact-check

In an era of fake news and misinformation, media organisations have the extra responsibility of fact-checking their content before publishing or broadcasting it. 

The big story in Rwanda this week has been the arrest of suspected terror leader and financer Paul Rusesabagina. 

 

His arrest also attracted the attention of regional and global media houses, probably owing to the controversial movie Hotel Rwanda in which Hollywood actor Don Cheadle played the role of the hotel manager, a position Rusesabagina held during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. 

 

Survivors of the Genocide who were at the hotel have strongly disputed the storyline of the events portrayed in the movie, especially the role of the manager during their time at Hotel des Mille Collines. 

 

One false narrative that has featured in the coverage of Rusesabagina’s case is the reason behind his arrest. Some sections of the media are even misleading their audiences by claiming that he was arrested because he is a critic of the Rwandan government.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As explained by Rwanda Investigation Bureau officials, the reason for his arrest is the well-documented terror attacks carried out by his National Liberation Front (FLN) militia in the southern part of Rwanda, especially in 2018. This was the same reason behind the international arrest warrant against Rusesabagina.

The FLN openly bragged about the attacks and Rusesabagina went a step further and recorded a video celebrating the attacks, which killed innocent civilians.

Rusesabagina is not only one of the founders but also a key financier of the FLN militia. His support for a terror group responsible for the bloodshed and loss of lives is what led to his arrest.

While there is a deliberate effort to sanitise and present Rusesabagina as a victim, the mainstream media has the responsibility to fact-check whatever they are told. They can look up video footage and testimonies of Rusesabagina himself and his FLN colleagues on the internet and hear from the victims of their actions. That is a basic editorial standard.

The process to hold to account those responsible for the deadly attacks have been on for a while now, one of them being the trial of the former FLN spokesperson Callixte Nsabimana.

It is a process that is open to media coverage.

Rusesabagina, too, will have his day in court to defend himself against the charges he faces.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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