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Ugandan Court Bans Tabloids from Publishing Gay Lists

Ugandan Court Bans Tabloids from Publishing Gay Lists

The Ugandan high court has ruled to ban media outlets from publishing lists of people they accuse of being gay or lesbian, citing a clear and present danger that individuals named in those lists could face harassment and violence in a country that both criminalizes and vilifies homosexuality.

Judge Rules Against Ugandan Tabloid
The December 30 decision by Judge Vincent Musoke-Kibuuka forbids the Rolling Stone paper – no affiliation to the American publication which has condemned the Ugandan tabloid – from publishing either the identities or home addresses of those they suspect of being gay or lesbian. The judge also awarded the plaintiffs, three members of a Ugandan gay rights group, their court costs and 1.5 million Ugandan shillings (around $650).

The judge granted a permanent injunction against the Rolling Stone paper, but also extended that injunction to cover all media outlets, citing that the outings affronted the human dignity of those involved and represented a direct enticement of violence that went beyond the bounds freedom of expression—a point that the editors of Rolling Stone had argued in defense of their actions.

In October the Rolling Stone paper issued a list of 100 people it called its “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos”.

The paper ran a frontpage spread advertising the list alongside a caption saying: “Hang Them.” However, several of those included in the list, and subsequent lists, were not in fact homosexual, and it has since emerged that one such list included a married, 78-year-old Anglican Bishop.

Since the publication of the lists, human rights groups in Uganda have reported a rise in violence against those suspected of being gay or lesbian. As such, one group went to court to prevent the tabloid from publishing the lists and from furthering what they perceived to be an inevitable slide toward lethal vigilantism.

More on what has been called a precedent setting decision from The BBC

The newspaper argued that as the three people who brought the case were known gay rights leaders, it could not be punished for saying they were homosexuals.

But Judge Vincent Musoke-Kibuuke ruled that their lives had been threatened as they risked being attacked by vigilantes, Mr Onyango said.


One of the petitioners, Pepe Julian Onziema, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that she welcomed the ruling.

“It sets precedent in this country, and across Africa,” she said.

“A lot of the danger that we have been facing has been the result of the local media here. It’s basically set a standard for the media to begin treating us as humans, as part of the community.”

Ms Onziema said compensation was “not an important factor for us”, and that it had been more a question of protecting lives.

“We’d had enough because we were in lots of danger already. Then Rolling Stone went a notch higher by calling for the hanging of gay people,” she added. “We had to put a stop to it.”

A coalition grouping together human rights campaigners said they were pleased the High Court had taken this “principled step”.

“This ruling is a landmark not only for sexual and other minorities living in Uganda, but also an important precedent for other countries facing similar issues,” the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda said in a statement.

It is not known at this time whether the editors of the Rolling Stone tabloid will appeal this decision. *  

You can read more on the background to this story here.

*UPDATE: Rolling Stone’s managing editor Giles Muhame has said in an exclusive comment to The Independent that he will appeal the ruling and is planning to get signatures of Ugandan citizens who support the paper’s attempt at, to quote him, “exposing the evil in … society”. Read more here.

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to U.S. Army Africa.

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7:19PM PST on Jan 9, 2011

Good news

10:48AM PST on Jan 6, 2011

Why would they publish the list in the first place?

7:54AM PST on Jan 6, 2011

Good for the judge but I don't know if he can stand against the whole country.

7:05AM PST on Jan 6, 2011

I'm very impressed by this judge. Just wondering when the scientifically proven evidence that sexuality is decided at conception will be accepted worldwide. Unfortunately even here in Canada some people think all homosexuals are pedophiles.

9:57PM PST on Jan 5, 2011

"After our kids"? Really? How did pedophilia become associated with sexual minorities? Any legitimate (non-religious) source will confirm that no such correlation has ever been established:

The problem is that any study can only take data from convicted or admitted child molesters. They only tells us the demographics of molesters who get caught - not exactly a random sample.

9:46PM PST on Jan 5, 2011

A courageous act of sanity by the judge. This is a sneak peak at the Conservative Christian utopia that the right-wing wants to establish here. Every time a Conservative announces "We are a Christian Nation", we must emphatically remind them that we ARE NOT a Christian nation. We are, and were always meant to be, a NON-DENOMINATIONAL nation. We are free to practice, or not practice any religion we chose. We are not free to impose our religion on others or on our government.

Republican members of Congress have read aloud from the Bible, emphatically quoting whatever scripture they felt justified their support or opposition for some proposed legislation.
If a Representative or Senator read aloud from the Koran or The Bhagavad Gītā, Republicans would go bat-shit crazy. The religion of any elected official (including The President) is irrelevant.
When religion infects government, it is the beginning of tyranny and the end of civil rights. Religion has no place in government. Not in Uganda, Not in Somalia, Not here.

8:50PM PST on Jan 5, 2011

I am very impressed that the judge had compassion to protect the men, knowing that labelling them as gay could endanger their lives.

7:09PM PST on Jan 5, 2011

Good for Uganda. I have a whole new respect for them for their efforts toward conservation of the Gorillas and this news clearly show how much this country has been morally and socially growing.

4:24PM PST on Jan 5, 2011

Good news.

2:46PM PST on Jan 5, 2011

I thank the court for it's humanity.

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