2015 HRW Report on Rwanda: The untold provocative picture story

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports on Rwanda have been consistently known to be biased portraying the government and the leadership of Rwanda negatively.
The picture used by HRW on Rwanda in its World Report 2015. (Courtesy)
The picture used by HRW on Rwanda in its World Report 2015. (Courtesy)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports on Rwanda have been consistently known to be biased portraying the government and the leadership of Rwanda negatively. 

The 2015 report seems no different from that of last year; it’s simply a copy and paste of the same old allegations, some dating as far back as 2010.

In an article published in the New York Times, on October 19, 2009, Robert Bernstein one of the founding members of HRW, expressed disappointment on how the organisation had lost direction and credibility of its human rights mission and serving political interests. This is what HRW is demonstrating through its “reports” on Rwanda.

I will choose not to waste time on the written report because many comments have been made, but I want rather to show how the HRW report 2015 on Rwanda is more biased, politically motivated and provocative than any other before, through visual story telling that is satirical.

The choice of the picture above by HRW to describe Rwanda was neither by accident nor a true representation of Rwanda.

Mr. Kenneth Roth has been in the report writing business for a while and has qualified communication experts who very well understand and advise his organisation on the reason of choice, purpose and effect of a picture as a visual aid in telling a story to the readers. It is evident, therefore, that the picture used on the Rwanda report, was a well calculated strategy to use the power of the image to convey intrinsic complex messages that are political, malicious and provocative, which HRW would otherwise find offensive and unlawful to pen in black and white.

Picture stories can make readers laugh, sad, happy, annoyed, sympathetic etc, without any accompanying words. Communication experts inform that pictures as a form of storytelling evoke powerful emotions and can tell a story much more effectively than words alone.

In the communication world, the saying that; “a picture speaks a thousand words”, refers to the notion that a complex idea or story can be effectively conveyed simply using one single picture.One of the world’s famous comedians Rowan Atkinson known by the stage name of Mr. Bean, is able to effectively communicate with his audience through motion picture without uttering a single word. This demonstrates the power of the picture in story telling whether still or in motion.

HRW using satirical picture imagery, has as well skillfully told its political agenda on Rwanda in the picture story of an ugly, cheap mud house, with no door, empty, dark,(no light inside), abandoned, with no life around, and to crown it all, with the word “TUTSI” vividly written on the wall. In this time and age, it is very unlikely for those who know Rwanda to describe the country using this type of provocative picture.

HRW world report 2015, covers more than 90 countries and uses pictures on most country reports to tell a story of Human rights concerns or developments.

The choice of the picture on Rwanda report is not only wild but also totally different from other pictures used on other country reports and the connection to human rights concerns is totally absent.

Think about it, why did HRW choose the house it did and the significance of the word TUTSI?. I have picked a few countries at random to make a comparison of the pictures used on the country reports to clearly show an apparent difference with that on the Rwanda report.

Algeria Picture: Police officers detaining a demonstrator, Burundi Picture: An arrested human rights activist waving at the public, DRC Picture: Police on patrol in pick up vehicles. Singapore Picture: protesters walk past a mock grave of “Freedom of Speech”, Kuwait Picture: A meeting of heads of state of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Kenya Picture: Police officers watch over Muslim youth protestors, Israel/Palestine: people looking at a damaged classroom in Gaza, Afghanistan: a man casting a vote,Nigeria: photograph of a girl abducted by Boko Haram and finally,The EU Picture: a boat with rescuers helping people at sea! Interestingly, the EU picture of a boat of rescuers, is the same picture that is used on individual EU countries i.e Germany, France, Greece, UK, Etc, while on the contrary, African countries or Asia for example, were not represented by one picture.

Compare again the choice of the pictures and the scenarios presented in other countries,with that of the EU countries; then you can get the message vividly clear.

The picture stories for other countries picked at random, are full of life. There are people’s faces and the reader can easily tell the activity going on and the pictures are directly related to human rights issues.

When you look at the HRW choice of the picture on Rwanda, it is lifeless, abandoned, in fact it qualifies as a dead picture. The writing on the wall probably insinuates ethnic discrimination or some sort of negative reminder of some indescribable kind, which is not pleasant given the back ground on which it is inscribed.This kind of satirical expression cannot be employed using the alphabetic language of the ‘report’. Rwanda has a better picture than that portrayed by HRW.