Deciding to Testify about Rwanda: `As a Journalist, I Might Argue against Testifying but, as a Human Being, I Could Not.' (Words & Reflections)

By Hilsum, Lindsey | Nieman Reports, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Deciding to Testify about Rwanda: `As a Journalist, I Might Argue against Testifying but, as a Human Being, I Could Not.' (Words & Reflections)


Hilsum, Lindsey, Nieman Reports


In 1997, British journalist Lindsey Hilsum testified before the International Criminal Tribumal on Rwanda about events she'd witnessed while working in that country as a freelance journalist in 1994, primarily for the British Broadcasting Corporation. In this article, she describes why she agreed to testify.

The accused, dressed in a dark jacket, sat impassively staring ahead, just a few yards from me in the sweltering courtroom. The allegations: genocide and crimes against humanity. Jean-Paul Akayesu had been mayor of Taba, in central Rwanda, while villagers and militia under his control slaughtered thousands of people with machetes and nail-studded clubs. His was the first case to be heard by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. On January 20, 1997, I took the stand as a witness for the prosecution.

Emmanuel Rudasingwa was planning to testify, too, but he was murdered before he could do so. His widow, Godlieve Mukarasasi, thought she knew why. Akayesu's defenders were determined that anyone who knew anything about the campaign to wipe out the Tutsi people in his area would not make it to court in Arusha. Rudasingwa ran a small shop in Taba and was brave enough to talk to the tribunal investigators who visited the area. That is why he died. "Everyone knew Emmanuel was talking because they saw such a big car outside the door," said Mukarasasi.

Deciding to Testify

American journalists argue that if we testify in war crimes tribunals we put our colleagues and ourselves at risk and might compromise our integrity and impartiality. British journalists--several of whom have testified at the tribunals on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia--tend to take a less rigid stance, leaving the decision more to individual conscience. These stances seem to emerge out of differing experiences and perspectives: American journalists believe they have enormous influence on governments, but in Britain we rarely feel we make a difference. Journalism is not considered sacrosanct and, therefore, we should not exaggerate our own importance. In normal circumstances, journalists in Britain do not appear as witnesses for the prosecution or defense. But wars and the crimes that take place during them are anything but normal circumstances. Reporting matters, but sometimes justice matters more. The horror of what I saw in Rwanda was so great, normal rules no longer applied.

I believe that the United Nations was right to set up a special tribunal for Rwanda as a way of bringing justice to the perpetrators of a mass crime that ranks alongside the Holocaust and what happened in Cambodia. Who am I to say Emmanuel Rudasingwa should testify, but I should not? Hundreds of Rwandan peasants have risked everything to go to Arusha and tell the truth about what happened. Some have subsequently fled into exile, knowing the tribunal's witness protection program cannot save them. Others have returned to their villages to be threatened or treated as outcasts. By contrast, I have continued my work as a journalist covering conflict, and I do not see any evidence that my actions have put other journalists in danger. A war correspondent's job is more dangerous than it used to be because 24-hour satellite television has made combatants aware of the media, not because a handful of us have testified at these tribunals. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Deciding to Testify about Rwanda: `As a Journalist, I Might Argue against Testifying but, as a Human Being, I Could Not.' (Words & Reflections)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.