Uganda has a strong anti-gay climate, where the legislature is currently debating a proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would further criminalize homosexuality with harsh prison sentences or death.
But one Ugandan tabloid has taken the anti-gay hatred a step further. The newspaper included an article on Uganda’s “top” homosexuals, inviting people to attack the men listed. The front page of the newspaper read “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak,” next to a banner reading “Hang Them.”
The newspaper released the men’s photos, names, and addresses. Since it was published, at least four of the gay men on the list have been attacked, and many others are hiding to protect their lives.
The article was published in Rolling Stone, a Ugandan tabloid (no relation to the U.S. magazine of the same name). It included ridiculous claims — that an unknown, deadly disease was attacking Ugandan homosexuals and that gays were raiding schools and recruiting one million children. The article itself did not even contain information on 100 gay Ugandans; it only contained information on about two dozen men. But the Rolling Stone threatened three more installments of the “Hang Them” campaign, releasing information on the remaining “top” homosexual Ugandans.
The government’s Media Council ordered the newspaper to stop publishing before the remaining installments were published. But the order isn’t based on the newspaper’s content, rather on the fact that the newspaper hadn’t registered with the government. Paul Mukasa, secretary of the Media Council, said that the Rolling Stone will be allowed to publish again after it registers — despite their front page article.
The Rolling Stone should not be allowed to publish articles that target individuals and ask people to violently attack others based on their sexual orientation. Please ask the secretary of the Media Council to prevent publishing of the newspaper even after it registers with the government.
Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda may be pervasive, led by politicians and clergy members with deep ties to conservative U.S. evangelicals. But international pressure has helped draw attention to the dire situation facing LGBT people in Uganda. Indeed, after an international uproar over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the legislation has been frozen in two committees of the Parliament. That’s a good sign, but it’s by no means an indication that the bill is dead. It could very much resurface, which is why articles like those put forward by the Rolling Stone are dangerous.
The Ugandan government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. Especially considering the strong anti-gay sentiment in Uganda, a newspaper should not be allowed to publish personal information such as the private addresses of gay Ugandans. Not only was the article distasteful, but it knowingly invited attacks and harassment on gay men. It deserves to be condemned.
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