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Panel 4: Preventing Genocide
Frank Chalk »
Philippe Dahinden
Mark Frohardt
Paul Heinbecker

Panel 4: Preventing Genocide: the International Architecture of Media and Humanitarian Intervention

Frank Chalk, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

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Frank Chalk

Frank Chalk: I was hoping that you would talk a little longer, because it’s very embarrassing when you have a 10 minute presentation and you’re laptop takes five minutes to boot up.  You hope for mercy, but at the moment I do have the same timer that we user earlier, and I think we might actually make it now.  My talk looks to the future, as well as the past.  It’s on the media, and incitement and prevention, of genocide.  And I hope my time will begin when I’m able to actually show you the slides, which I think is imminent, but I’m still getting an hour glass, which all of us who use, ah it’s open, which all of us who use Microsoft products know means that Bill Gates is finding out what we’ve done in the last 24 hours, and it takes him awhile to read the screen, and let us go ahead.  While this happening, and again not in my paper, let me just say a word about reporters and genocide and history if I could for just a moment.  The name Walter Duranty has not been uttered in this room.  He was the New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, who got his Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Soviet Union in the 1930’s, and who lied knowingly, and with malice and forethought about the famine in Ukraine in the early 1930’s.  Malcolm Muggerige, who was then writing for the Manchester Guardian told the truth, and Walter Duranty succeeding in obfuscating an ongoing genocide that starved to death with intent, to destroy a part of the Ukrainian people, some 4-6 million Ukrainians.  We still don’t know the exact numbers.  Sorry this is taking so long General Dallaire.  I thought I was not going to be the first presenter.  So we didn’t try to do this earlier, but I should have assumed I could be, and we should have arranged it, but I still don’t have a screen.  It’s coming though.

Frank Chalk

The second thing I wanted to say is the case of the Armenian genocide of 1915, in the case of the Holocaust between 1941 and 1945, in the case of the murder ½ million Indonesian supposed communists in 1965, in the case of the murder of approximately 1 million Bengalis and others in Bangladesh in 1971, in the case of the murder of between 100,000 and 300,000 educated Hutu in Burundi, reporters played a very small role.  In Bangladesh it helped, or East Pakistan it helped, but in most of these other cases, reporters did not serve as the trip wires or the signalers, and some day we should talk about that, and why?  And it’s not entirely their responsibility either. 

So we now have a screen, and you believe I have a presentation, which is a very good thing, as Martha used to say.  All right.  We believe that there are four basic motives for genocide in history.  I’ve laid them out here, and the first three are the ones that we don’t need to pay too much attention to today; those are the utilitarian genocides.  The motives there are crass human greed, the creation of empire.  We call these “eliminating real or potential threats, spreading terror among enemies, acquiring economic wealth.” They’re practical, utilitarian, and they actually produce tangible gains for the people of the perpetrating country in many instances. 

Genocide is motivated by ideology, or more interesting from our point of view.  They seek a perfect future, inspired by ethno-nationalist utopian or racist goals.  The perpetrator demonizes the victim group, excludes it’s members from the universe of mutual obligation, and this sets up the genocide to follow, and they produce very few material benefits for the people of the country that’s perpetrating the genocide.  Perpetrators of ideologically motivated genocides rely much more heavily on the mass media as an instrument of mobilization than perpetrators of utilitarian genocides. 

The aim is to demonize the victim group by engendering fear, hatred and violence, and I think everybody up here will recognize what I’m talking about.  The method is sustained propaganda to mobilize violence against victims on a grand scale.  The technique is to reinforce motivating beliefs through intensively spread eliminationist hate propaganda and disinformation. 

The results: a synergism creating panic fear resulting from the propaganda.  Convincing ordinary people to believe that they are killing to preserve their lives, traditional rights and property, murdering victims defined as the only practical policy to be implemented in cold blood.  This actually helps us in early warning of genocide, but we have to be listening, and we have to have leaders willing to act.  The open mass mobilization of the population by the media to the public encouragement of ordinary people to endorse and join in state supported crimes against humanity and genocide, alerts us in the prediction and early warning of ideologically motivated genocides. 

This is a bigger problem in poor countries, developing countries, countries moving from authoritarian to democratic systems, than in most other countries.  In these countries, the media has no tradition of independence, no deeply rooted professional standards for journalists, a violent media culture with no sense of responsibility to society as a whole.  We see manipulation of journalists by the dominant political faction through bribery and intimidation.  Stereotyping and sensationalism as major themes in news stories, stories tending to reduce ethnic tension are overlooked, neglected, set aside.  The key, as Mark Froman (?) and Internews has pointed out in it’s U.S. Institute of Peace Report, and many of us agree, is to assess the stage which the genocidal situation is reached in order to plan an intelligent intervention, and to devise a response strategy appropriate to that stage.  In the early stage, before there are killings, domestic and foreign monitoring of the media, training programs and codes of conduct for local editors and journalists, foreign assistants to strengthen local media, and radio soap operas and drama programs produced by local inter-ethnic teams for children and adults are very useful.  Search for common ground has pioneered the latter, and so has BBC actually. 

In the middle stage, when there are already some massacres, local journalists, NGOs and government ministers opposed to genocide are neutered or repressed by the government and it’s allies, which would roughly correspond to when General Dallaire arrived in Rwanda, or perhaps he was even at the end of that process.  Foreign governments, NGOs and international organizations should notify perpetrators their hate propaganda is being monitored and recorded to enable future prosecution.  Counter disinformation with more frequent broadcasts of accurate news and local languages, and initiate electronic jamming of hate broadcasters inciting genocide or even more strenuous measures if necessary.

When the genocide is underway, and we call that late stage interventions, and we hope never to get to that, but we may again.  We need to destroy the transmitters and printing presses of the hate mongers, broadcast warnings to victims and bystanders that genocide has begun, warn perpetrators to cease and desist, and broadcast feasible routes to safety, and other survival intelligence to potential victims.  These techniques have been field tested in bits and pieces in a long list of countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Burundi, Cambodia, Kosovo, Liberia, Macedonia and Sierra Leone.  A long list of organizations, which I won’t list that includes Internews, Foundation Hirondelle represented on this panel, as well as Search for Common Ground have tried to implement such measures, and right here in Canada in British Columbia, the Center for War, Peace and the News Media (?) has worked on this. 

I want to propose this afternoon a new initiative, an international code of conduct backed by transmitter export control regulations.  The landmark media case decision in the media decision of December 3, 2003, confirms, subject to appeal, the UN Genocide Conventions criminalization of media incitements to commit genocide whether or not a genocide results from that propaganda, that incitement is a crime in itself.  What we need now is an international code of conduct, which recognizes the dual use possibilities of t.v. and AM/FM and satellite radio transmitters.  The code of conduct should ban the export of transmitters to countries already under international arms embargos, and there should be at least these six criteria for banning the exported transmitters to these countries.  Not respecting sanctions decreed by the UN Security Council, violating human rights obligations already embodied in the international treaties the country has signed, refusing export to countries likely to use the equipment to provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions in country of final destination, threatening the national security of states subscribing to the code of conduct, demonstrating disrespect for international law alliances, and the need to contain terrorism, and likely to divert the equipment within the buyer country, etc.  These are actually the six criteria, or six of the criteria, which the European Union agreements already explicitly pose. 

To this, we should add requirement that the people buying radio equipment must sign an undertaking not to use it for hate propaganda.  We know that many times they’ll lie and do that, but that will authorize us and legitimate us when we take out those transmitters.  We have already had mandatory UN embargos on the following list of countries and regimes when they stood in violation of these agreements ranging from Afghanistan through Yugoslavia.   EU weapons embargos have already been imposed on an even longer list ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.  That’s the direction we need to move, and if you would like further information, I’ll put this PowerPoint presentation on the website I’ve put on the screen, and you’re welcome to contact me.  Thank you very much.  I’ll have to get out of here. 

Next: Philippe Dahinden



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