The mandate of the Committee of Inquiry was to look into the allegations brought to the attention of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) on the documentary titled “Rwanda’s Untold Story” that was aired by the BBC on 1 October 2014. The task was to examine whether in its handling of the content of the documentary the BBC abused press freedom and free speech; its compliance with its own journalistic standards; and to determine whether there was deliberate misconduct by the producers of the documentary.
The mandate also required the Committee to examine allegations of the BBC’s violation of Rwandan law and specific laws of genocide denial and revisionism, and inciting hatred and divisionism among Rwandans. Further, the Committee was also tasked with looking into allegations of previous journalistic transgressions committed by the BBC’s Kinyarwanda program and whether there was a breach of agreement relating to the granting of the licence to broadcast the BBC’s radio programs on FM frequencies in Rwanda.
Section one of this report is the general introduction. It introduces the process that led to the establishment of this Committee of Inquiry and the mandate it was given, as well as the methodology used to gather material for this report. Sections two trough six are detailed responses to the terms of reference upon which this committee derived its mandate.
The report concludes with a number of observations by the Committee and an outline of recommendations on the present and future relationship between the Government of Rwanda and the BBC.
The evidence collected by the Committee indicates that the BBC was derelict in its responsibility to moderate and enforce the duties and responsibilities that come with the exercise of press freedom and freedom of the press; in its decision to air the documentary, the BBC trespassed beyond the parameters it has set for itself as journalistic standards in its Editorial Charter; there were a number of instances that pointed to the violation of Rwandan law, with particular reference to offenses of genocide denial and revisionism and for inciting violence and divisionism among Rwandans. Evidence showed recurrent transgressions on the part of the BBC in regards to the content of its Kinyarwanda programs. The Committee also found that there was a general shortage of goodwill by the BBC in applying the content and spirit of the agreement that moderates its relationship with the Government of Rwanda.
The above observations led the Committee to a set of recommendations:
- That the agreement between the Government of Rwanda and the BBC be terminated.
This recommendation is based on the identified and recurrent transgressions on the part of the BBC. Moreover, the BBC was invited to appear before this Committee but it declined. Instead, it chose to conduct its own internal inquiry whose findings entirely exonerated itself and its producers of any professional or legal wrongdoing. In view of the above, therefore, to restore any future formal relationship, we recommend that the Government should require the BBC to commit to adhering to not only agreed professional and legal principles but also in practice in the letter and the spirit of the agreement.
- That respective organs of the Rwandan Government initiate criminal and civil processes to deal with identified offenses and compel the BBC to disclose the information in reference to the recommendation number 1. The former process is based on serious evidence of criminal offenses, as established by this inquiry while the latter is premised on the Committee’s inability to access key information that is in the hands of the BBC, which, we have reason to believe, can shed more light on a number of pertinent issues surrounding the origin, purpose, and source of funding for the documentary.
- That the Government of Rwanda should establish an effective and cohesive national communication strategy, as a permanent instrument for tracking, identifying, and addressing manifestations of genocide denial in all its forms and wherever it may be found, as well as for spreading values of national interest.
You can download the full report here.
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