October 24, 2014 / 7:09 PM / in 3 years

Rwanda suspends BBC's local radio service over genocide documentary

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda has suspended the BBC’s local radio service after the broadcaster aired a documentary that questioned official accounts of the 1994 genocide, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority said on Friday.

“Rwanda: The Untold Story,” which aired on Oct. 1, includes interviews with former aides to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the former rebel leader, in which they accuse him of plotting to shoot down a plane carrying former President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination marked the start of the 100-day genocide.

The documentary also suggests that Tutsi rebels, led by Kagame, committed war crimes.

Kagame called the BBC documentary “cynicism of the highest order”, and this week Rwanda’s parliament voted to ban the BBC from its airwaves.

In a statement the BBC said it has a “duty to investigate difficult and challenging subjects” and that the documentary “made a valuable contribution to the understanding of the tragic history of the country and the region.”

The armed forces of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front defeated government troops in 1994, stopping a three-month wave of bloodletting by ethnic Hutu extremists in which more than 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed while the international community largely stood by.

Critics say Kagame, who led his predominantly Tutsi rebel movement to power after the genocide and won support from Western powers as an ally in turbulent central Africa, has taken advantage of Western guilt over the genocide to increase persecution of opponents.

In June, the U.S. State Department cited “credible reports” that journalists have been threatened in the central African country and that the government has suspended a call-in news radio program.

Shyaka Anastase, the head of the Rwandan governance board, told a news conference the regulatory body had decided “to stop the Kinyarwanda BBC programs starting from today.”

“We don’t have an issue with any international media. We have an issue with the media that act against the unity of Rwandans,” he said. 

The broadcasts in the Kinyarwanda language air for 30 minutes on weekday and Saturday evenings.

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by Edith Honan; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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