Civility by Decree: Comparing Rwanda

Hate speech can have dangerous consequences in any society dominated by the politics of identity. During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, for example, the state-controlled Radio Television des Milles Collines (RTLM) urged its Hutu listeners to exterminate all perceived ethnic Tutsis. RTLMÕs broadcasts were considered instrumental in instigating the slaughter of between 500,000 and one million Rwandans (mostly Tutsis, along with moderate Hutus) in three months. The ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has since charged RTLM’s director with incitement to genocide.
Few would disagree that RTLM crossed a red line between journalism and criminal incitement. The real question is whether any society needs an additional layer of bureaucracy between journalists and the law. On the whole, Kosovo journalists argue that their society does need such a layer. While Koha Ditore editor Baton Haxhiu says that he “opposes any form of censorship,” he has nonetheless joined an official body that will effectively help the OSCE censor Kosovo’s press.

So far, the worst effect of media hate speech that the OSCE can point to was the tearing down of a Serbian statue in the town of Gjilan or Djilane (in Albanian and Serbo-Croatian respectively), after weeks of Albanian nationalist broadcasts on local radio beginning in July. Recently, however, there has been an upsurge in ethnic violence there and elsewhere in Kosovo. It remains to be seen whether the new Media Policy Board will manage to discourage criminal incitement in the future.

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Part 1: Continental Divide / Part 2: View from Kosovo / Part 3: Strange Bedfellows