If you’re a BTB regular, you might be forgiven if you thought you experienced a bit of déjà vu while reading this morning’s paper. The Associated Press today published a pretty good account of the Ugandan tabloid, Rolling Stone(no relation to the U.S. magazine by the same name), which outed several dozen private LGBT citzens as part of their “Hang Them!” campaign.
That hint of recognition you experienced may have come about becuase we were on this story two weeks ago, as we reported on the Rolling Stone’s unfolding anti-gay campaign with its October 2 issue. The front cover of the tabloid promised “100 pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos,” but the story beginning on page two only included eight photos gleaned from Facebook and Gaydar profiles along with personally-identifiable information — names (sometimes including full names), residences and employers — of about a couple dozen LGBT individuals. The article also said that it was to be the first of a four part series. It’s widely believed that a well-known anti-gay activist may be connected to the campaign, although he denies any involvment.
The Associated Press fills in a few extra details:
In the days since it was published, at least four gay Ugandans on the list have been attacked and many others are in hiding, according to rights activist Julian Onziema. One person named in the story had stones thrown at his house by neighbors.
That single article alone was damage enough, but Rolling Stone threatened three more installments and everyone wondered what would come with the expected appearance of the October 9 edition. Fortunately the government stepped in to shut down Rolling Stone before the second installment of their “Hang Them” campaign could hit the streets. It turns out that Rolling Stone failed to properly register itself with the authorities. In a country where heavy governmental interference with the press is commonplace, that was a big no-no.
The AP article confirms our suspicions that Rolling Stone may start publishing again once they get their registration issues resolved. However, that, too, is only conjecture, since the lack of official registration probably wasn’t the only problem. I’m told that the October 2 issue, which was the fifth edition since Rolling Stone’s late August debut, carried only two advertisements in its entire 24-page edition. One was a quarter-page ad for Uganda Telecom and the other was a small front-page ad for Blue Magic, Inc,. the printing house which printed Rolling Stone. Five weeks on, that’s not much of an advertising base. The AP puts their circulation at 2,000 issues, but at only 1,500 Uganda Shillings a pop (US$0.65), this paper was not destined to last — unless there are some very deep pockets backing it.
A lawmaker in this conservative African country introduced a bill a year ago that would have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts and life in prison for others. An international uproar ensued, and the bill was quietly shelved.
In fact, the bill has not been shelved. It was referred by Parliament to two committees: the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Committee on Presidential Affairs. As far as I know, neither committee has returned a report back to Parliament. Warren’s sources confirm to him that it is still in committee as well. After the committee(s) report back to Parliament, the bill would then have to undergo a second and third reading before a final vote.
Parliamentary elections are slated for February and March of 2011, and in anticipation of breaking for campaigning, Parliament issued what they said was its agenda for the final session. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill did not make it to that agenda, and it has not appeared on the daily order papers.