News / Africa

Media Watchdog Condemns Ugandan Paper for Exposing Gays

A Ugandan man reads the headline of the Ugandan newspaper 'Rolling Stone' in Kampala, Uganda, 19 Oct 2010
A Ugandan man reads the headline of the Ugandan newspaper 'Rolling Stone' in Kampala, Uganda, 19 Oct 2010

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A Ugandan media watchdog is condemning a local newspaper, which published a story that featured the names, photographs, and contact details of 100 alleged homosexuals and called for them to be hanged.

The executive secretary of the country's Independent Media Council, Haruna Kanaah, says that he is shocked and dismayed by the newspaper's lack of journalistic ethics.

He says Uganda Rolling Stone, a weekly tabloid launched by a group of journalism graduates two months ago, is now being closely monitored.

"In Uganda, we have a journalism code of ethics, which is very clear," said Kanaah.  "The media should be balanced, accurate and fair.  Intruding into people's privacy, that is not journalism.  It is witch-hunting."    

Gay rights activists in Uganda say at least four people have been attacked since the publication of the article earlier this month.  

Carrying the headline "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos," the article came out just days before the one year anniversary of the introduction of a controversial bill in parliament that would make homosexuality, which is illegal in Uganda, punishable by death in some cases.

Although debate over the bill has been suspended, rights group say homophobia in the East African country has risen dramatically in the past year.

Suspected homosexuals have been named in recent articles published by a rival tabloid newspaper, Red Pepper.  But Ugandans say this is the first time that a media organization has deliberately sought to incite public violence against gays.

On its cover page, for example, the Uganda Rolling Stone also claimed that homosexuals in the country were raiding schools, aiming to recruit a million children by 2012.      

Many gay men and women are said to have gone into hiding or taking extreme precautions.  One woman named in the article says she was forced to leave her home after neighbors began pelting her house with rocks.

The managing editor of the Uganda Rolling Stone, Giles Muhame, has defended the newspaper's radical anti-gay stance, saying that journalists had a duty to expose what he termed "evil in the Ugandan society."  He says he intends to publish more names and photos in upcoming issues.

On Wednesday, a leading Ugandan activist told an audience in Washington that gay people in Uganda are already living under a death sentence.   Julius Kaggwa, who was in Washington to receive an award for his work opposing intolerance against sexual minorities in Uganda, said gay men and women in his country are routinely denied health services and housing, and are being cut off from society.

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