Sunday 14 February 2010

Complaint made to BBC on Kenyan gay coverage

Why is the BBC putting gay back in inverted commas 
Coverage of terrifying Mombasa riot against gays inaccurate and misleading

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Editor of LGBT Asylum News, Paul Canning, today complained to the BBC over its coverage of a so-called 'gay wedding' in Mombasa, Kenya and attempted massacre of local gay men.

The BBC carried the headline 'Police arrest five 'gay' Kenyans' [screenshot link below] on its website, a link which led to a story headlined 'Kenya chiefs block Mombasa 'gay wedding''.

In December the BBC's coverage of gay issues in Africa faced widespread condemnation when a discussion board on it's website aimed at Africans asked 'Should Homosexuals Face Execution?'

Canning said that a number of Kenyan gay sources have confirmed there was no wedding including the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, which blamed the riot on media incitement.

The first BBC report had carried a brief reference to statements by Kenyan gay community condemning arrests of gays by local police but not their refutation of the wedding claim.

Canning has tracked the timeline of the events.

A riot started on Friday following a report in Kenya's newspaper The Daily Nation, and subsequent radio reports, of a supposed 'gay wedding' at Mtwapa, a Indian Ocean beach resort, north-east of Kenya's second city.

Kenyan gay activists say the newspaper report was based on "rumors started in a hair salon" following a practical joke on a local radio station and that there never was a planned 'wedding'. GayUganda reports receiving email saying that "one of our Guys made a joke last week that he was getting married to his lover, this issue has been picked by Radio Rahma and it's inciting Muslims against Gay men".

Activists claim that presenters on the radio stations Kaya and Baraka FM had been inciting people, with Radio Rahama asking Muslims to "find these men".

Canning said:

"It is shocking that the BBC is carrying the incitement to murder of gay men by the local media and clerics, repeating as fact their claims. The local TV footage shows terrified gays holding a meeting at a clinic as part of a HIV vaccine research project surrounded by a mob being hauled out by police - but the BBC refers to 'Crowds gathered' and 'protests'."

"This reporting plays down what it is a clear attempt to massacre local gay men. Why has the BBC not spoken to the organised gay community?"

"Would the BBC have carried the fantastical claims made by Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines prior to the Rwandan genocide as fact? African media regularly carries fantastical claims about gays. The BBC should be far more careful than it is being in repeating those claims as fact."

BBC: Kenyan police raid 'gay wedding' and arrest five men
BBC: Kenya chiefs block Mombasa 'gay wedding'

Screenshot of BBC website showing the headline

Statement by the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya

The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya have said that they would complain to the Media Council of Kenya. Canning said he had written to encourage them and GAAI Africa to also complain to the BBC.

GAAI Africa can be contacted at

Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya
Telephone:     +254-20-242-6060
Mobile Phone Number:     +254 714 492 228 or +254 736 345 328

Text of complaint to BBC follows.


Re: so-called Kenyan 'gay wedding'

Firstly, I understand it is against your style manual to put the word gay in inverted commas yet that's what I see on your website in a headline: Police arrest five 'gay' Kenyans.

Secondly, there was no 'gay wedding'. Just because the local newspaper and radio said there was and this was then repeated by police and clerics does not make it so.

The Kenyan gay community, in particular The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya in their statement, make this clear. Yet you are reporting this as fact.

What there was was media incitement which stirred up a mob, most horrifically seen in local TV footage.

None of this is reflected in your reports. They are misleading and inaccurate.

Here is my reporting, with sources

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