Radio propaganda during the Rwandan Genocide

Posted: Milena Silvestravičiūtė Date: 2016-09-06 03:43

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Radio is one of the tools of propaganda, which is used to change people‘s opinions or to make the influence for a particular position and decisions, while all this is broadcast on the radio, usually on the radio shows. Radio as such manages to quickly translate the information and helps to spread the news to a great number of people.

Before the invention of the television, radio was a great tool to reach the people and try to form our attitude with the help of it. Radio propaganda broadcasting can be long distance, presented to a big audience, with a rather low price. The propagandist, by using his voice and a power of the persuasion can convey the emotions for millions of people. Even J. Goebbels once said that the radio is the most significant instrument that has the major influence on the masses.

Rwandan Genocide took place in 1994 and it clearly depicts the way the radio was used as a tool of propaganda. That was the propaganda that claimed a life of millions. Approximately one million of people, mainly in Tutsi, were killed during the Rwandan Genocide, which lasted for 12 weeks in 1994. In 2003 the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) arrested two journalists – F. Nahimana and J. B. Barayagwiza (the co-founders of the RTLM radio station) for the Rwandan Genocide. The use of this type of propaganda shows how the mass media can serve as the provocation of mass coercion. The elite, managing authoritarian countries, benefit from the mass media that generally is in their control, with the intention to affect the citizens’ support and their involvement in the violence against certain groups. Moreover, the mass political massacre helps the elite groups to protect themselves from the unfavourable political threats, which can be caused by some kind of group. In the society the persecution promoted by the government creates the tension between the local people and frequently it transforms into a bigger conflict leading to a mass murder.

This planned radio propaganda was used by the members of the Hutu ethnic group against the ethnic minority Tutsi. In Rwanda there are two major ethnic groups: the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi. Formerly, the minority Tutsi was the governing one, however, in 1962, when the country regained its independence from Belgium, Rwanda became dominated by Hutu. In order to find out the way the particularity of the radio propaganda, we need to understand that the radio broadcasts had a direct influence on the listeners when convincing them that it is better to participate and help with the killing the members of the ethnic minority Tutsi than not to be involved in this issue. People were intimidated as well, it was told that in case you will not help the government, you will become the enemy, being the same as the group constituting the threat. According to E. Canetti, the order is based on the thorn of fear. It grows into the person’s way of thinking, his or her behaviour and when the right time comes, it makes you to obey the order again. The obedience to the order removes the fear, gives the person some self-confidence, dignity and pride. To obey the order of the government was the main aim promoted by the radio propaganda during the Rwandan Genocide. Another reason why people had absolutely no fear when going to commit the cruelty was that the government implied that they will not be punished for that and they were even encouraged to act like that. This mechanism was capable of forcing people to believe that the broadcasts not only induced the rhetoric directed against Tutsi that could raise the level of the turnover, but also, the information about the fact that the government will not punish for participating in the killing executions of Tutsi people or for their misappropriation of property. On the contrary, such behaviour was promoted. The radio broadcasts even before the genocide developed a negative attitude towards Tutsi, people constantly heard only antagonistic thoughts about them, that was the way the base for the real clashes between these two confronting ethnic groups that had to happen without any doubt was prepared. When it happened, the whole propaganda, which had to set the negative attitude actually worked out, therefore, to encourage the violence and contempt was a very easy way to reach the goal for the authorities and it had a wide support from the people.

One more important factor besides the radio propaganda, which encouraged the contempt and violence, was the issue of the race. The main purposes of the genocide was not only due to the ethnicity and the confrontation of two different ethnic groups, but an important detail was racial variation, taking into consideration the differences of these two ethnic groups. At the beginning, the Belgian colonizers, on the basis of various researches about the tribes of Rwanda, carried out by different scientists, thought that Tutsi is a more prestigious race than Hutu and Tutsi has to be the officials of the government. However, later the history was changed, the tribe of Twa was at the top in Rwanda, then follows the Hutu and only then the ethnic group of Tutsi used their power to conquer Rwanda. This version made a lot of local people in Rwanda think that Hutu was related to the history and the land of Rwanda much earlier, and only some time later Tutsi came and made everyone obey them. In this case, it is possible to think that the racial differences of these two ethnic groups lead to an even bigger conflict and those racial differences served for the radio propaganda, making the radio shows more influential when it comes to the contempt to a Tutsi. There are many examples from the history, when the race of the highest rank is as if aggrandized, while the individuals that do not fit the norms and theories of that race, have to be destroyed. It is really important that the ethnic group Hutu was linked to the history, its origins with the earth, and the existence in the ancient times, on the basis of this Tutsi simply got the name of the intruder that wants to erase all the sacred bonds with the native land.