The acquittal by a French court of a journalist, who had been on trial for denial of the Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi, has predictably been hailed by her supporters, as a victory for freedom of expression. The reality however, is that it is a triumph for the apologists of the mass murder of men, women, and children, cynically wrapped up as journalism, and freedom of speech.
“Denial, minimising, or in any way trivialising genocide”, has long been against French law. In 2017, the law was extended to encompass all genocides, including the Genocide Against Tutsi.
Unlike offences related to the Holocaust however, many in France, and indeed across the Western world, feel no particular compunction, to express often ill informed, offensive comment, that in one or another, almost always amounts t denial, or certainly minimising of the Genocide Against Tutsi.
There are several reasons for such disregard, that verges on the contemptuous, but the main reason, is unadulterated racism. The mass murder of African men, women and children, however harrowing, is not regarded anywhere as deep a tragedy, as if the murdered were white.
“In such countries, genocide is not so important” intoned the President of France during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, Francois Mitterrand. Such an attitude will not have sounded in anyway shocking or offensive to many of his compatriots, especially those within the establishment.
Although not confined only to France, such an outlook should come as no surprise, from a country which was fully complicit in the Rwanda genocide, in the name of perpetuating French colonial influence on the African continent.
The French establishment remains marinated in such attitudes towards the Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi, to the point of shielding suspected mass murderers from facing justice.
Rather than challenge their country’s establishment, with the odd honourable exception, French media simply echoes these racist, offensive views.
For journalist Natcha Polony, the comments that would land her in court, were made within a perspective of someone playing to her audience.
“It is necessary to look at what happened at that time, which is not at all a distinction between the bad guys and the good guys. Unfortunately, we are typically in the kind of case where we had bastards against other bastards…That is to say, I think that there were not on one side the good guys and on other side the bad guys in this story” opined Ms Polony, who also considers herself an essayist.
A journalist and essayist, from a country that was complicit in one of the worst genocides of any generation, speaking on radio, in that country, supposedly to inform her audience, does not mention her country’s complicity, but rather equates a force that opposed, and fought against the planners and perpetrators of that genocide, with the mass murderers, who were supported by her country.
In a language the court which exonerated her, would best understand, her comments would be exactly like saying, in reference to the murder of the Jewish people, by the Nazis, that there was no difference between the Nazis, and the allied armies that fought to stop and end the Nazi crimes.
Predictably, her radio station, France Inter, sister broadcaster to Radio France International, after proffering platitudes about abhorring genocide denial, went on to defend the journalist’s position, and stand by her.
The case against Polony was brought by Ibuka, an organisation that works to support survivors of the genocide against Tutsi, and the International League against Racism and Antisemitism.
Polony was the first person in France to be charged for such offences in relation to the genocide against Tutsi, and her trial was seen as test case.
Egregiously offensive though they were, it remains arguable whether Polony’s comments were well chosen, as a test case. Given the prevailing attitudes in France, the threshold for offences against the genocide against Tutsi, was always likely to be much higher than that say, for offences related to the holocaust of the Jews.
It can only be hoped that the triumphal tone of Polony’s supporters, neither encourages more outrages like hers, or discourages attempts to have such offences prosecuted.