Radio Machete

Ah, and just when I was talking about Rwanda, here is this story. How very interesting. The first time media executives have been convicted since the Nurenberg trials. Well that’s too bad, for a start, because Serbian radio was also used to whip up murderous ethnic hatreds. But it’s better than nothing.

In the first verdict of its kind since the Nuremberg trials, an international court today convicted three Rwandan news media executives of genocide for helping to incite a killing spree by machete-wielding gangs who slaughtered about 800,000 Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda in early 1994. A three judge panel found that the three defendants used a radio station and a twice-monthly newspaper to inflame ethnic hatred that eventually led to massacres at churches, schools, hospitals and roadblocks. The radio station, dubbed Radio Machete in Rwanda, guided killers to specific victims, broadcasting the names, license plate numbers and hiding places of Tutsis.

This is the kind of thing I always wonder about when free speech absolutists get wound up.

“The power of the media to create and destroy human values comes with great responsibility,” the court said in a 29-page summary of its judgment. “Those who control the media are accountable for its consequences.”…John Floyd, who defended one of the executives, a newspaper editor named Hassan Ngeze, denounced the verdict as a major setback for free speech and an invitation to dictators to close down any media outlet that is out of favor. “This is a terrible, terrible decision, the worst decision in the history of international justice,” Mr. Floyd said. “This is very, very dangerous. This case would have been laughed out of an American court.”

Would it? I hope not, but maybe it would. Fortunately we haven’t (as far as I know) had a situation like that, but if we did, would judges laugh a prosecution of such media executives out of court? US courts do protect political bribery and various kinds of advertising as free speech in the US, no matter how corrupt and harmful they may be, so…who knows.

2 Responses to “Radio Machete”