Paul Kagame
Rwandan president Paul Kagame presides over a climate of repression, according to Human Rights Watch. Reuters

Rwanda has suspended BBC broadcasts in the country's most common language, Kinyarwanda, over a dispute about the broadcaster's recent documentary about the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Government officials expressed their anger at the BBC documentary Rwanda: The Untold Story, which suggests that Rwandan president Paul Kagame may have ordered his predecessor's plane to be shot down - an event that triggered the massacre.

The hour-long broadcast also quotes US researchers who suggested that many of the 800,000 Rwandans who died in the genocide may have been ethnic Hutus, and not Tutsis, as the government maintains.

The Rwandan Utilities Regulatory Authority announced the suspension on Friday, saying it took the decision because it received complaints from the public of "incitement, hatred, divisionism, genocide denial and revision".

Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's minister of foreign affairs, said the documentary was an "attack on Rwanda and its people", and that the government is considering taking action against the BBC.

The Rwandan genocide raises extremely painful issues, but the BBC has a duty to investigate difficult and challenging subjects.
- BBC spokeswoman

"My government reserves the right to respond on its own timing, in a manner commensurate with the weight of the offence," Mushikiwabo told the Associated Press.

A BBC spokeswoman said the organisation regretted the move to suspend its broadcasts, and condemned the Rwandan government's "threat of direct measures against an independent broadcaster".

"The Rwandan genocide raises extremely painful issues, but the BBC has a duty to investigate difficult and challenging subjects," she said.

"We believe this programme, which was produced by a BBC current affairs team in London and broadcast in the UK, made a valuable contribution to the understanding of the tragic history of the country and the region."

The BBC also rejected the suggestion that the programme denied the genocide of ethnic Tutsis, and pointed out that the documentary features repeated references to mass killings of Tutsis by ethnic Hutus.

Earlier this week, the Rwandan parliament passed a resolution to ban the BBC and bring charges against the makers of the documentary. University students also staged a protest march against the programme.

According to Human Rights Watch, President Kagame's regime does not tolerate dissent or political opposition, and Rwandan media is dominated by official government views.