BBC accused of fuelling genocide denial with Rwanda documentary

In letter to DG Tony Hall 38 prominent academics and others say 'Untold Story' recycles discredited ‘Hutu Power' propaganda

Academics tell head of BBC that  it is not legitimate to promote genocide denial

London (October 13) - Thirty eight prominent academics, historians, politicians and journalists have sent a letter to the Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, complaining about the way an hour-long TV documentary on October 1 left viewers with an impression that the majority Hutus, rather than minority Tutsis, were the main victims of 100 days of ethnic slaughter that resulted in over a million deaths in Rwanda in 1994.

The lead signature belongs to Professor Linda Melvern, author of ""A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda''s Genocide; Conspiracy to murder." (NAEP, Cape Town / ZED Books, London 2000).

The letter says: "We accept and support that it is legitimate to investigate, with due diligence and respect for factual evidence, any crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and to reflect on the contemporary political situation in Rwanda. However, attempts to examine these issues should not distort the reality of the 1994 genocide. It is not legitimate to use current events to either negate or to diminish the genocide. Nor is it legitimate to promote genocide denial."

It says that claims made in the documentary called "Untold Story" that it was 800,000 Hutus rather than the same number of Tutsis who were killed in three months of slaughter are "old claims" adding: "For years similar material using similar language has been distributed far and wide as part of an on-going ‘Hutu Power' campaign of genocide denial. At the heart of this campaign are convicted genocidaires, some of their defence lawyers from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and their supporters and collaborators. These deniers continually question the status of the genocide and try to prove -- like the programme -- that what it calls the ‘official narrative' of the 1994 genocide is wrong. The BBC programme ‘"Rwanda''s Untold Story'" recycles their arguments and provides them with another platform to create doubt and confusion about what really happened.""

It went on to say that the BBC programme attempted to minimize the number of Tutsis murdered.

The letter to Hall says that the figures cited "were provided by two US academics who worked for a team of lawyers defending the genocidaires at the ICTR" adding: "They even claim that in 1994 more Hutu that Tutsi were murdered, an absurd suggestion and contrary to all widely available research reported by Amnesty International, UNICEF, the UN Human Rights Commission, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, a UN Security Council mandated Commission of Experts and evidence submitted to the ICTR and other European courts who have successfully put on trial several perpetrators."

It says that caims made in the film that the shooting down of a plane carrying two African presidents on April 6, 1994 was perpretated by the RPF is the same story promoted by Hutu Power extremists.

The letter, which was signed and sent to Hall on October 12, was sent  to "Politicsweb" tonight.

It says that the film-maker, the veteran investigative reporter Jane Corbin, tried to "raise doubts" about whether or not the RPF stopped the genocide.

It asserts that in broadcasting the documentary the BBC has been "recklessly irresponsible."

It adds: "The programme has fuelled genocide denial. It has further emboldened the genocidaires, all their supporters and those who collaborate with them. It has provided them the legitimacy of the BBC. Denial of genocide causes the gravest offence to survivors. For them, the genocide is not a distant event from 20 years ago but a reality with which they live every day.""

The letter called on the BBC to explain how the programme came to be made and the editorial decision-making which allowed it to be broadcast.

It says- ""In the course of any internal BBC enquiry we hope all relevant documents from the "This World" archive and from senior editors involved in approving the prograrme will be released for study. "Rwanda''s Untold Story" tarnishes the BBC's well-deserved reputation for objective and balanced journalism. We urge the BBC to apologise for the offence this programme has caused for all victims and survivors of the genocide in Rwanda."

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