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How the Airwaves Were a Catalyst to Rwanda’s Genocide

In July 1993, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) was created. There was Radio Rwanda, the national radio station which was controlled by the government, and a few other radio stations that could be heard by short wave. There were some radical journalists at Radio Rwanda, but there was still a degree of moderation. RTLM, on the other hand, was directly propagandistic. It had been created for that purpose. The station regularly called Tutsis “cockroaches” and encouraged people to “cut down the tall trees”, in reference to Tutsis. Once the genocide started, the station broadcast the names of people to be killed and information about where they could be found. The arrest of Felicien Kabuga, an 84-year-old former businessman from Rwanda who co-founded RTLM, many were reminded of the messaging his platform created. “I remember RTLM broadcasting songs conveying hatred and demonising the Tutsi. The songs would openly call for our extermination. Political slogans were translated into song and young people were mobilised into youth movements. These youth movements were key to executing the genocide.”