Radio Rwanda: How Broadcast Journalism Weaponized Hatred (1993-94)

Saturday, January 5, 2019
Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)
Sarah Allen, Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame
Radio Rwanda: How Broadcast Journalism Weaponized Hatred (1993-94)

This paper argues that the Radio Télévision des Milles Collines (RTLM) created and broadcasted subversive narratives in an attempt to disenfranchise Tutsis in Rwandan society. These false histories asserted that Tutsis still aligned with Rwanda’s German and Belgian colonizers, claiming that those ruling Tutsis created frameworks that discriminated against the Hutu majority since 1919. One such system was the education system, which openly favored Tutsis and produced extremely low literacy rates amongst Hutus. These frameworks also spewed harmful racial ideology from colonial authors like John Hanning Speke. This further reinforced the idea of Tutsi racial and cultural superiority in Rwanda.

These beliefs formed a foundation for RTLM racial propaganda and subversive narratives. Using the respective works of Psychiatrist Frantz Fanon and Economist Edward L. Glaeser, I argue that the broadcasting of such narratives was a premeditated delegitimization of Tutsis that enabled the Hutu-dominated RTLM to galvanise their listeners into partaking in collective violence during the Rwandan Genocide. Due to low literacy rates and a wide radio audience, the RTLM successfully marginalized the Tutsi population in Rwanda through the use of anti-colonial narratives and racially charged propaganda, leading to a narrative of victimization for Hutus that harmed Tutsis and reinforced Hutu Power.

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