BOB GARFIELD: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. In Arusha, Tanzania the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is prosecuting those accused of responsibility for the genocide of the Tutsi minority in 1994. One of the cases currently before the court has come to be known as the Media Trial. Three men connected with newspaper and radio representing the Hutu Power Movement are charged with conspiracy to genocide. There are very few precedents in international law, the principal one being the judgment against Der Sturmer editor Julius Streicher at Nuremberg. Stephen Rapp is a former U.S. district attorney and the lead prosecutor in the Rwanda case. He insists that the genocide was made possible by the hatred generated by the newspaper Kangora [sp?] and coordinated by the Kagali [sp?] radio station RTLM.
STEPHEN RAPP: In, in Rwanda during the genocide there were literally thousands of roadblocks -- every few hundred meters. And at every roadblock, according to witnesses, there was an FM- radio and that radio station would be egging people on, urging them to, to get rid of the, the "inyenzi" [sp?] - the so-called cockroaches in the Kenya-Rwanda language.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well specifically--
STEPHEN RAPP: Yes--
BROOKE GLADSTONE:-- what did they do? There are plenty of examples of hateful media that doesn't actually amount to genocide. How did they cross that line?
STEPHEN RAPP: Well, when they would name names of, of traitors and accomplices that were living in particular neighborhoods and, and, and essentially urged them to be killed and within minutes-- killing militias would arrive and kill them; when they would read out license numbers of people that were attempting to flee and when those people would be stopped and murdered-- they would say several thousand RPF enemy soldiers are, are in refuge at this moment at the Khaddafi [sp?] Mosque in Kigali when in fact who was in refuge there were men, women and children and-- within an hour the killing militias would arrive at that scene and, and begin hacking those people to death.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Can you make a distinction for me between what the radio station did and what the newspaper, Kangora, did? How did it incite genocide?
STEPHEN RAPP: Perhaps in, in a way closer to the example of Der Sturmer, the, the Julius Streicher anti-Jewish newspaper that started very early in the Nazi movement and for which Streicher was condemned at the, at the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946. The magazine or newspaper Kangora basically was a, a newspaper that constantly hit on why we can never make peace with the Tutsis. Basically what Kangora was, was part of a conspiracy to build this sort of national movement that would make possible the elimination of, of the Tutsi people within the country. If you're a newspaper that's engaged in some sort of fraud or some other criminal enterprise, it's, it's not protected if you can show that sort of criminal intent.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:John Floyd, the American defense lawyer who is your opposite number in this case -- he's -he'll be defending the editor of Kangora, Hassan Ngesai [sp?]. He said that this media trial was the most dangerous trial he'd ever been involved in because it may give comfort to despots in the future.
STEPHEN RAPP: Well what's happening in the world and what's happening in this whole area of human rights or when, when Milosevic is brought into the dock, when Kombonda [sp?] the prime minister of, of Rwanda in our court is sent to prison for life, that's sending a message to despots that the tactics that they employ of trying to turn one people against another in order to preserve power are potentially going to get them in trouble. And so this is bad news for the despots if, if we succeed -- not good news.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well Stephen Rapp, thanks for coming on the show.
STEPHEN RAPP: Enjoyed it very much.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Stephen Rapp is the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. We're joined now by attorney John Floyd who is defending Mr. Hassan Ngesai, the former publisher of the newspaper Kangora. Thanks for coming on.
JOHN FLOYD: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You were quoted in the paper as saying that this was one of the most dangerous trials you've ever participated in because it has the potential to give comfort to despots. What did you mean by that?
JOHN FLOYD: What I mean is that I simply don't think that the United Nations has any business prosecuting somebody who-- ran a newspaper. You can't have democracy unless you have a free, unfettered press, and what will happen if these men are-- convicted -- all the despots, being it Saddam Hussein or someone in some tin horn dictatorship -- all they have to do to close the press down is that - oh, well you might incite something, and the United Nations has said it's okay for us to control--the press, and therefore you can't write that, you know, I'm a crook or whatever.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:However some of the evidence suggests that Kangora was essentially a, a puppet newspaper run by the government and the lead prosecute, Mr. Rapp, compared this case to the Julius Streicher case in Nuremberg. He said that Kangora, the newspaper, was as much a part of the genocide as the shipments of machetes that arrived in Rwanda in preparation for the genocide. Is Streicher a fair comparison in your view?
JOHN FLOYD: Actually not. I'm not even so sure that we don't have an issue with Streicher, because while the things that he said was, were virulent and racist, a free press is the only bastion we have for a free people. My client did not say any of the things that Streicher said, so that comparison is not well taken.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:We have freedom of speech in America, but one can't cry fire in a crowded theater; one can't knowingly libel or commit fraud. Would you say that Kangora did not do the equivalent of crying fire in a crowded theater?
JOHN FLOYD: Absolutely not. In fact we've had Tutsi witnesses that talked about the number of Tutsis that were saved by my client during the period -- that he helped them get from Rwanda to-- Zaire! But more than that, during the months of April, May, June and July that -those hundred days they're talking about, not one issue of Kangora was published.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:And so what you're saying is, is it can't be implicated directly in any kind of genocidal impulse because the publication of the paper didn't coincide with the greatest amount of murder. Kangora famously published the Hutu Ten Commandments, the 8th of which is that the Hutu's must stop having quote "mercy on the Tutsis."
JOHN FLOYD: He did not write 'em. All he did was re-publish them, and he wasn't the only organ that published them, even in Rwanda. He also published the 19 Commandments of, of-- of Tutsi!
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Mr. Floyd let us argue that both of foment hatred. This is hardly the saint, based on the actual physical record of the content of his newspapers -- this is hardly a man who was suing for peace and conciliation among parties!
JOHN FLOYD: This man is no more a-- a, a-- a sinner than Rush Limbaugh who often has things that a lot of people disagree with, and I suspect they're - your listeners to recently probably feel the same way about you -- and I may disagree with you or I may agree with you -- I disagree with Rush Limbaugh - but I'll tell you one thing -I'll defend with my life his right to continue his program and do whatever. I mean I'm an American. I believe in free press - freedom of speech - I think that that's what separates Americans from other people.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: John Floyd thank you very much to talking to us.
JOHN FLOYD: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: John Floyd is the attorney for the defense of Mr. Hassan Ngesai, the former publisher of the newspaper Kangora. [MUSIC]