Antiviral RNA silencing/interference (RNAi) of negative-strand (-) RNA plant viruses (NSVs) has been studied less than for single-stranded, positive-sense (+)RNA plant viruses. From the latter, genomic and subgenomic mRNA molecules are targeted by RNAi. However, genomic RNA strands from plant NSVs are generally wrapped tightly within viral nucleocapsid (N) protein to form ribonucleoproteins (RNPs), the core unit for viral replication, transcription and movement. In this study, the targeting of the NSV tospoviral genomic RNA and mRNA molecules by antiviral RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISC) was investigated, in vitro and in planta. RISC fractions isolated from tospovirus-infected N. benthamiana plants specifically cleaved naked, purified tospoviral genomic RNAs in vitro, but not genomic RNAs complexed with viral N protein. In planta RISC complexes, activated by a tobacco rattle virus (TRV) carrying tospovirus NSs or Gn gene fragments, mainly targeted the corresponding viral mRNAs and hardly genomic (viral and viral-complementary strands) RNA assembled into RNPs. In contrast, for the (+)ssRNA cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), RISC complexes, activated by TRV carrying CMV 2a or 2b gene fragments, targeted CMV genomic RNA. Altogether, the results indicated that antiviral RNAi primarily targets tospoviral mRNAs whilst their genomic RNA is well protected in RNPs against RISC-mediated cleavage. Considering the important role of RNPs in the replication cycle of all NSVs, the findings made in this study are likely applicable to all viruses belonging to this group.