To Catch A War Criminal?

Brian Stelter reports in today’s New York Times that an NBC News crew and a Rwandan prosecutor, as part of an NBC News investigation of possible war criminals, recently confronted a Rwandan professor working at a Maryland college “with charges that he had participated in that country’s genocide in 1994,” allegations the professor denies.

These investigations have raised concerns from The Department of Homeland Security (“a program of this kind cold negatively impact law enforcement’s ability to investigate”), the executive director of Human Rights Watch, who phoned NBC Universal’s general counsel (“I was worried that a journalist was making false accusations, due to some extent to his close collaboration with the Rwandan government”) and a Poynter ethics expert (“As journalists, we struggle to keep an arm’s length from all sorts of officials, whether they’re cops or prosecutors or diplomats”).

While Stelter writes that “NBC is likely to bristle at any comparisons between the current investigation and the series of sex predator stings that it conducted in the last few years,” based on Stelter’s article, it’s hard not to see shades of “To Catch a Predator” in this current NBC effort.

Douglas McCollam wrote a thorough critique of NBC News’s “Predator” series for CJR two years ago.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.