BBC-Kinyarwanda indefinitely suspended

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), yesterday, announced an indefinite suspension of BBC Kinyarwanda service over a controversial documentary aired by the broadcaster in October last year.
RURA director-general Patrick Nyirishema (L), and board chair Eng. Collette Ruhamya, brief the media on the ban yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)
RURA director-general Patrick Nyirishema (L), and board chair Eng. Collette Ruhamya, brief the media on the ban yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), yesterday, announced an indefinite suspension of BBC Kinyarwanda service over a controversial documentary aired by the broadcaster in October last year.

The documentary, titled Rwanda’s Untold Story, was widely contested in Rwanda and abroad and considered to be an attempt to distort facts about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

An independent commission of inquiry was set up to look into the programme that had sparked protests within and out of the country.

The commission, headed by former Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga, recommended termination of BBC services in the country.

“Having examined the findings (of the commission) and found compelling evidence with respect to the allegations against BBC, the regulatory board concluded that the airing of the documentary constituted abuse of press freedom and free speech, violated its own editorial guidelines, transgressed journalistic standards and violated Rwandan laws with particular reference to Genocide denial and revisionism, inciting hatred and divisionism among Rwandans,” RURA director-general Patrick Nyirishema said.

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

A source in prosecutions office told Saturday Times that prosecution has the discretion to consider or not, a legal action after a thorough review of the allegations as detailed in the Ngoga Report.

Independent analysts, however, say if Rwanda is to consider a suit against the broadcaster, chances are the case may be filed in London.

Rura commissioned the probe in November, last year, after receiving a public complaints about the documentary that attracted severe criticism from various quarters from within and outside the country, including Genocide survivors; an international coalition of academics, scientists and journalists, who accused the British public broadcaster of being “recklessly irresponsible” and promoting Genocide denial.

During its public hearing, the Ngoga commission heard from 24 witnesses in total, including international academics, researchers, journalists and politicians, among others.

The BBC was asked to present its position but didn’t show up during the hearings and, according to Nyirishema, if BBC come forth, discussions would be about future engagements but not reversing the decision taken.

Eng Coletha Ruhamya, the board chairperson of RURA, said the decision will not affect Rwanda’s relations with the UK.

The controversial film relied on testimonies of a group of Genocide revisionists and fugitives and characters who are well-known to be opponents or critics of the Kigali government.

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