Monday 1 November 2010

US urged to offer visas to outed Ugandan LGBT; Ugandan activists suing tabloid

Photo of legal document submitted by activists to Ugandan High Court. Sorry, this is highest resolution available
By Paul Canning

Last week the 'outing' of one hundred Ugandan LGBT by a new tabloid newspaper called Rolling Stone (no relation to the veteran American magazine) caused an international sensation. Its Editor Muhame Giles has called for the hanging of gays. It's publication was swiftly followed by reports of the hounding of those named.
“When my neighbors saw my picture in the paper, they were furious. They threw stones at me while I was in my house. I was so terrified somehow I managed to flee my home to safety.” said Stosh [Programme Coordinator- Kulhas Uganda]
Rolling Stone followed this up yesterday in a new edition headlined “More homos’ faces exposed.” "Men of shame part II," pictured 14 men identified as the "generals" of the gay movement in Uganda. Muhame told AFP "they published their pictures on a gay networking website, so that was enough evidence for us," adding that the paper did not try to contact the men before publishing their pictures.

Rolling Stone was last month told not to publish any more issues until it received a licence from the Uganda Media Council. Muhame said Monday the paper has not yet received its licence but had decided to publish regardless.
"We met all (the council's) requirements," Muhame told AFP. "After that, we don't care what they have to say."

This is far from the first instance of this happening in Uganda. The tabloid Red Pepper has been doing it for a few years and that has similarly led to the violent harassment of those named and pictured. It happened to the asylum seeker John Bosco, who was returned to Uganda by the British government despite being named and pictured in Red Pepper. He was forced to live underground in Kampala as a result until six months later when a judge, in a unique case, ordered his return.

Ugandan activist Jacqueline Kasha reports that alongside Rolling Stone and Red Pepper another Kampala newspaper 'Onion' has now joined in with the 'outing' campaign. Kasha and fellow activists David Kato and Patience Onziema have launched an action in Uganda's High Court this morning suing Rolling Stone for incitement to violence.

American activists citing the role of US evangelicals in the anti-gay witch hunt underway in Uganda are calling on the US State Department to immediately offer visas to those 'outed' and under threat.
When news first reached American ears a year ago about the bill that would make homosexuality illegal and punishable by death, the initial outrage was followed by an investigation into the relationship between prominent American Evangelicals and Ugandan leaders by American news sources. At the beginning of this inquiry, the American media focused upon a conference held in Uganda in March 2009 that addressed, as the Ugandan organizer put it,'"the gay agenda - that whole hidden and dark agenda" - and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family' according to this article by the New York Times that was published in January 2010. Many identified this conference as the beginning of the violent anti-gay feeling prevalent across the country. This video clip by ABC news explains the connection further:

The relationship between Evangelicals and the anti-homosexuality bill is obviously complicated yet extremely present. We may not be able to completely understand the connections, but we do know that we can take a stand on what is occurring in Uganda now. Please, speak out against the recent newspaper article published in Uganda that contained the names and photos of the top 100 homosexuals in the nation. Urge the State Department to help these men now by clicking here.
This automatically sends a letter to Eric P. Schwartz, Asst. Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, and the Office of Public Engagement at The White House.

France has already offered sanctuary to at least one activist, reports Têtu. Usaam Mukwaya, who was one of three activists arrested at the 2008 HIV/AIDS Implementers’ Meeting in Kampala after they protested against statements made by a Ugandan Government official that no funds would be directed toward HIV programmes aimed at men who have sex with men, is now in France and has just been granted asylum following the intervention of renowned international activist Louis-Georges Tin with the French Foreign Ministry.

Mukwaya was one of those 'outed' by Red Pepper. His family and friends rejected him, his employer fired him and passers by called him a "sodomite." In a market he was beaten and a local Iman called for his murder. The authorities in his town told him if he didn't move his business would be burned down.
"The second time the police stopped me, I was tortured," he says. "I filed a case to the Human Rights Commission of Uganda, and I was unsuccessful."

Edited to add: Jim Burroway has just published the press release from Sexual Minorities Uganda.


The Ugandan Rolling Stone tabloid published an article entitled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak” calling for “the hanging of homos” in Uganda in its issue of Vol.1, No. 5, 2 – 9 October, 2010. This article shows pictures of some of the 100 alleged homosexuals and other Human Rights Activists, alongside their names and a description of their professional jobs and private life, including where they live or work.

The publication has affected the day to day lives of the individuals mentioned and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBTI] community as a whole. Therefore Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender human rights activists have taken the tabloid to the High Court.

Through this litigation the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community is seeking to bring to an end the violations. They will also educate and raise awareness that everyone in this society deserves and should be protected by the government and the law irrespective of race, age, color, tribe, creed, sexual orientation and gender identity.

We call on:

1. The MEDIA to immediately desist from using press freedom to incite violence against any person.

2. The Government of Uganda to intervene immediately and take all appropriate measures to put an end to this blatant incitement to public violence against a particular group of citizens.

3. The Government of Uganda should recognize and seize the opportunity to ensure the protection of human rights, which is entrusted to its authority, and uphold the Ugandan Constitution as well as the international and regional Human Rights Instruments to which Uganda is a signatory.

Edited to add: The activists won their court case! However Giles Muhame said he would defy the ban.
"We will publish more pictures but in a diplomatic way, so that we can dodge the law."
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