Monday, April 05, 2004

Most major news organisations are focusing this week on the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which began ten years ago tomorrow when a plane carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents was shot down.

The crash acted as the trigger for Hutu extremists to try to wipe out the Tutsi minority.

In just 100 days an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered while the rest of the world stood by.

Many reports are rightly highlighting the pivotal role the media played in fuelling the genocide with the notorious "hate radio" station RTLM in particular playing a central part in the massacres.

But as the Boston Globe explains, a decade on, freedom of the press is a distant dream in Rwanda.

Meanwhile, press freedom -- or the perceived lack of it -- is a contributory factor in the upsurge in violent anti-coalition protests across Iraq.

A week ago, the coalition closed Moqtada Sadr's al-Hawza newspaper on the grounds that it was inciting violence. Then, the International Federation of Journalists warned that the shut-down could be counter-productive because it smacked of censorship and would "do nothing to build confidence in a culture of openness."

Sadly but perhaps predictably, the IFJ has been proved right.


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