Media language and conflict: a case study of the 1994 Rwanda genocide
MetadataShow full item record
The study focused on the role the media played in the 1993 Rwanda genocide specifically focusing on the role played by radio RTLM and Kangura newspaper. The general objective of the study was to study the relationship between media language and conflict with a special focus on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods were employed to collect the data, these include questionnaires, observation, focus group discussions in-depth interviews and review of documents and publications on the role of the media in the genocide. Quality control was ensured during the study where the researcher pre-tested the questionnaires and other study instruments on selected respondents with similar characteristics in Kigali. This helped the researcher design better and precise data collection instruments. The study established that the media language played an important role laying grounds for hatred and mobilizing the masses both before and during the genocide. Before the genocide the media was used to portray one group as bad and a threat to the existence of the other. It is this misuse of the media that laid grounds for genocide. The study established that the lack of government control and regulation of the media or the control of only one section of the media greatly contributed to the genocide for example anti Hutu propaganda was greatly censured while RTLM openly promoted anti Tutsi propaganda without any censuring. This not only promoted hatred but also gave the community no option from which to choose from. The research also established that the media in pre genocide Rwanda used entertainment, local popularity of the radio and the elites of society to mislead the community, this was through telling lies about what the Tutsi or the RPF was planning, how it intended to eliminate every Hutu and how the Tutsi could not be trusted despite the fact that the two communities had lived together for ages. The media in essence created fear and hatred and gave a picture that the only way out was to kill your enemy – the Tutsi. The study established that the media was effective partly because it was protected by the government, a fact that the media utilized to show that they were publishing the government side of view. The media was also effective because of lack of other media in the country, RTLM and Radio Rwanda were the only radios operating in Rwanda and later were joined by Radio Muhabura, RTLM during the genocide took over the control and management of Radio Rwanda. The general community had no other source of information on which they could rely and evaluate the truthfulness of the information given. The study established that because of the negative lessons from the media before and during the genocide in Rwanda, the media has been greatly censured today and this has affected the basic democratic rights. The media has also been put under strict control and supervision, there is limited development of professional journalism because society in Rwanda views journalism as a bad profession that can lead wars and other bad effects. The study established that there were difficult lessons learnt from the genocide both by the Rwandese society and the government. The events of the genocide showed how media can be abused to promote hatred and disunity in the community. The community also learnt not to trust information whose sources are not clear. The end result has been a “closed” society that is cautious on the information they receive and how they apply the information. This has had a negative impact on the development of the media in Rwanda today and on the exercise of freedom of expression as it is in other democratic societies. So far the Rwandan government has created an East African Media Center to improve training of journalists in Collaboration with the school of Journalism at the Butare National University of Rwanda. The study ends with recommendations for the improvement of the media industry in Rwanda. The media in Rwanda was dealt a big blow by the genocide, today there is need to redevelop the media to promote peaceful living, forgiveness, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the community and the general development infrastructure destroyed by the genocide. It is the development of responsible reporting, professional journalism and improvement in media and communication that can see the development of information sharing and help the government and development partners reach the community and empower it to develop.