Academic journal article Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law

Countering Hate Messages That Lead to Violence: The United Nation's Chapter VII Authority to Use Radio Jamming to Halt Incendiary Broadcasts

Academic journal article Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law

Countering Hate Messages That Lead to Violence: The United Nation's Chapter VII Authority to Use Radio Jamming to Halt Incendiary Broadcasts

Article excerpt


Fervent, fiery speeches draw an audience and excite a crowd. Speeches given by a skilled orator can ignite passions, and just a few spoken words with the correct pizzazz can incite people to take action. Actions inspired by motivating speech can be for good or bad purposes, and the greater the audience, the greater the effect the speech has in producing thought or action. As the audience grows, so does the impact on individuals, communities, and society as a whole.

Because of its ability to pervasively spread a message and its susceptibility to being manipulated, radio is a powerful tool in the hands of a talented orator, a leader with a passionate plea, or a crafty messenger with an inspiring message the people want to hear.(1) Radio heightens the impact speech can have on people because it enables people in a number of different locations to hear the same message at the same time. Control of the radio airwaves is a powerful asset, and misuse of that asset can have disastrous results.

The survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, who were engulfed by the racist, fervid broadcasts of hate radio, can provide firsthand testimony of these disastrous results.(2) The primary source of hate radio in Rwanda, Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), was a nominally private radio station created in 1993 with informal connections to high-ranking government extremists.(3) The government officials to whom RTLM was connected belonged to the Hutu ethnic group that ruled in opposition to the Tutsi group. Prior to the mass killings in April 1994, RTLM targeted its messages to the Interahamwe ("those who attack together")--a private youth "death squad" set up by the Hutus--who would hear these RTLM criticisms of Tutsis and moderate Hutus who sympathized with Tutsis and then attack them.(4)

The plane crash that killed Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, spurred the station's active role in promoting and assisting the genocide of the Tutsi people in Rwanda.(5) It remains uncertain who shot down President Habyarimana's plane,(6) but RTLM had announced three days earlier that a "little something" would soon occur and was the first source to announce the crash.(7) After the crash, RTLM advocated the killing of Tutsis by associating them with the opposition political party, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), which the station claimed had killed President Habyarimana and was invading the country.

There is some disagreement as to whether RTLM support for the killing of civilians was direct or indirect,s However, RTLM clearly played a role in promoting the killings as a "final war" or "final battle" in which members of the Hutu majority were made to feel they had to kill all Tutsi "rebels" and "accomplices" (which was interpreted to mean all Tutsis and all Hutus who sympathized with the Tutsis--including civilians) in order to ensure their own survival.(9) RTLM associated all Tutsis with the RPF and described them as "bloodthirsty monsters, who killed for the sake of killing."(10) According to RTLM, there was no point in negotiating with the Tutsis because nothing short of their elimination could quench their thirst for blood and neutralize the threat they posed.(11)

Through these messages, RTLM's greatest contribution to the genocide may have been convincing the entire Hutu population in Rwanda--men, women, and children--that they had a "duty" to join the war against: the Tutsis by committing acts of genocide.(12) For example, RTLM systematically arranged roadblocks, and all able-bodied Hutus were expected to patrol them and execute all Tutsis on the spot.(13) The station suggested weapons to use for killing,(14) and RTLM broadcasts recited lists of named "enemies" who subsequently were tracked down and executed by militias.(15) Often, these "enemies" were civilians or even Hutus mistaken for Tutsis.(16) "Enemies" and "accomplices" attempting to leave Rwanda were also identified on the air to be riding in specific vehicles, and these cars were then stopped and the passengers killed. …

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