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Uganda: Rights groups hail landmark LGBT ruling

    January 04, 2011

    Ugandan human rights groups have welcomed a court ruling banning media from publishing the names of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people following a tabloid campaign targeting alleged homosexuals. A High Court judge ruled on Monday against the Rolling Stone tabloid newspaper, which last year published a series of lists and photos of people it said were gay, some of whom were attacked after their names had been published.

    Judge Vincent Musoke-Kibuuke banned Rolling Stone from revealing the identities of LGBT people and extended the ruling to all Ugandan media.

    "The human rights community welcomes this ruling as a landmark in the struggle for the protection of human dignity and the right to privacy irrespective of one’s sexual orientation," said a statement by The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda.

    Rolling Stone, a weekly tabloid paper launched last year by university graduates, published what it labelled "100 Pictures Of Uganda's Top Homos" on 2 October 2010. Another article had the headline "hang them" above a list of names and photos.

    Rights groups warned that the articles put the lives of LGBT people in danger. At least four people named in the article said they were attacked, including one woman who was reportedly forced to leave her home after neighbours pelted it with stones.

    Other Ugandan tabloids, such as Red Pepper and the Onion, have also published homophobic articles in the past.

    “While this injunction is a positive step for gay people in Uganda, the fact remains that the government of Uganda has for long been mute about the discrimination, threats and violence faced by LGBTI people in Uganda,” said Kasha Jacqueline, one of the three LGBT people who filed the case against Rolling Stone.

    The Rolling Stone's editor Giles Muhame said he would appeal against the High Court ruling against the tabloid.

    Discrimination against LGBT people is rife in Uganda, where the police arbitrarily arrest and detain men and women accused of engaging in consensual sex with someone of the same sex.

    Human rights organizations have documented cases of lesbians and gay men being tortured in detention because of their sexual orientation.

    In October 2009, an "Anti-Homosexuality Bill", described by Amnesty International as "an attack on freedom of expression", was drafted although it has not yet been passed by parliament.

    LGBT activist Frank Mugisha, one of those named in the Rolling Stone, told Amnesty International in November: “All this homophobia comes from ignorance. The fact that there’s no space for discussion, no space for understanding, that’s why some of these government officials don’t understand the LGBT issues.”

    John Tackaberry,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    613-744-7667, ext 236