On November 3, 2014, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), the body that, among other things, is mandated with regulating the media in Rwanda, set up a five member committee to look into allegations suggesting that the documentary titled “Rwanda’s Untold Story” aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on 1 October 2014 denied the genocide, abused international instruments, journalistic standards and the BBC’s own editorial values.
The Committee’s task was to examine whether in the process of gathering and the eventual telecasting of the documentary on channel BBC2, the BBC aided abuse of press freedom and free speech; transgressed its own journalistic standards; violated Rwandan laws and the agreement with the Government of Rwanda to broadcast its programmes on the FM frequency in the country.
Specifically, the mandate of the Committee was to study, reflect on and determine whether the BBC violated Rwanda’s law on genocide denial, revisionism, inciting hatred and divisionism, as well as ascertaining whether the documentary met the BBC’s own set and cherished values of ensuring, in all its broadcasts, impartiality, accuracy, fairness, decency and informing its varied audiences truthfully. Further, the Committee was also tasked with looking into allegations of previous journalistic transgressions committed by the BBC’s Kinyarwanda program over the years.
For four months, the committee met, studied, learnt from varied sources, analysed, deliberated on, and made conclusions about the aforementioned allegations against the BBC.
In inquiring into the allegations and making conclusions on each allegation as explained in this report, the Committee relied on, and was guided by, a methodology that is inclusive, independent, internally participatory and evidentially qualitative. As a result, all the conclusions made on each allegation against the BBC are informed by evidence from varied sources. These are: documents, books, and reports about the fact of the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, case law on the subject of genocide, Rwandan law, international conventions and norms, journalistic standards, BBC’s editorial guidelines, and witness testimonies.
Structurally, the report has nine sections. The first section is the general introduction. It introduces the process that led to the establishment of this Committee of Inquiry and the mandate it was given, the methodology used to gather evidential material and facts about each allegation against the BBC as well as limitations and delimitations. Sections two through nine contain analyses and provide evidence relied upon to make conclusions on each of the terms of references and appropriate recommendations.
The evidence collected and analysed led the Committee to conclude that the BBC, in general, abused press freedom and free speech, violated its own editorial guidelines, transgressed journalistic standards, and violated Rwandan law, with particular reference to genocide denial and revisionism, inciting hatred, and divisionism among Rwandans.
The above conclusions led the Committee to make the following 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.