In today's New York Observer, Felix Gillette has a thorough postmortem on "The Wanted," the short-lived and controversial NBC News show I wrote about earlier this month, in my piece about the case of Leopold Munyakazi, a former Goucher College professor accused of participating in the Rwandan genocide. Arguably, the show's fate was sealed long before it ever premiered, when a media ethics firestorm erupted over Munyakazi--after the producers of "The Wanted" confronted him with the genocide allegations, some experts on the Rwandan genocide spoke up to suggest he might actually be innocent. The case is a whole lot more complicated than that, though, full of contradictions and allegations of ideological axe-grinding, which Gillette argues is the entire point. Cases like Munyakazi's, he says:
... [are] not the kind of situations that would work in a simple good guys vs. bad guys format. Producers, it seemed, should have known better.
Overall, The Wanted amounted to what was arguably the worst public-relations hit that a broadcast news network has taken since CBS's "Rather-gate controversy" and Mr. Rather's subsequent lawsuit against his former employers.
It's still not clear whether the episode of "The Wanted" that focused on Munyakazi will ever air. At the time that the show was discontinued, after just two primetime episodes, there was speculation that a number of the additional installments that were already shot would end up on MSNBC or another network property, but Gillette hears no definite word.
The reverberations of the show continue, however, in Rwandan community here in the United States. Recently, the Buffalo News has been reporting on another case, that of Benoit Kabayiza, a local accountant who was also confronted by "The Wanted." Kabayiza's father, a Rwandan government subprefect in 1994, is currently on trial alongside many of other alleged organizers of the genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in Tanzania, and the Rwandan government accuses his son of participating as well. Like Munyakazi, Kabayiza claims he is an innocent target of a supposedly repressive Rwandan government, and like Munyakazi, he found an influential defender in Alison Des Forges, an expert on the genocide who later turned highly--some say reflexively--critical of the current president, Paul Kagame.
Rwanda wants the United States to deport Kabayiza home to face trial. The Buffalo News says that a special unit of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that focuses on human rights violators has traveled to Rwanda to investigate. I've heard the same unit is also looking into Munyakazi's case, and has interviewed people in his home village. But as the News reports, U.S. authorities say such investigations "could take months, even years." Real-world justice doesn't move at the pace of prime-time drama.