Ugandan Court Bans Tabloid’s Anti-Gay Vigilante Campaign

Jim Burroway

January 3rd, 2011

Front cover of the Oct 2, 2010 edition of Rolling Stone. (Click to enlarge.)

We have received word that the Ugandan High Court issued a final ruling today barring the tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication of the same name) from conducting its outing campaign of private LGBT individuals. According to a press release from the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the court ruled that the issue is not about homosexuality but “it is about the fundamental rights and freedoms” of private individuals. The court found that “the call to hang gays in dozens tends to tremendously threaten their right to human dignity” and that the tabloid’s act “threaten the rights of the applicants to privacy of the person and their home.”

November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone"On October 2, Rolling Stone published a what they said would be the first part of a four part series exposing one hundred LGBT citizens in Uganda. The first installment included the call to “hang them” on the front cover and over the article itself. Uganda’s Media Council moved swiftly to order Rolling Stone to shut down after discovering that the tabloid had not properly registered with the authorities. The tabloid complied, but resumed publishing again on November 1 with a second installment of its outing series.

With each publication, more evidence emerged that the tabloid, which carried virtually no advertising, was receiving support from anti-gay sources. Strong circumstantial evidence suggests that anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa, who is wanted by authorities for his participation in an outing campaign against a rival pastor, was a driving force behind Rolling Stone’s activities. Seempa is currently sought by authorities for his actions in leveling accusations of homosexuality against rival pastors.

After the second expose in September, Sexual Minorities Uganda sought a court order barring Rolling Stone from outing individual private persons in Uganda. The court issued a temporary ruling on November and followed that with today’s permanent injunction preventing Rolling Stone and its managing editor, Giles Muhama from “any other publications of the identities of the persons and homes of the applicants and homosexuals generally.” Human Rights advocates hailed the injunction for its “broad protection to other Ugandans who are, or who are perceived to be homosexual” and notes that the injunction provides an important precedent for other media outlets as well.


January 3rd, 2011

what a great way to start the year!

Priya Lynn

January 3rd, 2011

Hmmm, I’d have thought the Ugandan courts would be puppets to the Ugandan dictatorship.


January 3rd, 2011

I don’t know what the law is over there as far as slander and libel, but homosexuality is unfortunately against the law and a very dangerous accusation to make. We all know this is a witch hunt. I know we can’t change people’s views right away as far as sexuality goes, but their government should at least put their foot down on the whole slander thing.


January 3rd, 2011

Eh, I think even the dictatorship realized that these “outing campaigns” could get out of hand and lead to religiously motivated vigilantism if not checked. These guys want to have an inquisition, and really want the power for themselves, I think. How long before key figures in the military or the regime got “outed” and an attempt to topple the regime ensued? There isn’t much of a pension plan in the dictator business.

I wonder if anyone they “outed” so far was actually gay? Something tells me the “Rolling Pebble” (As GayUganda has called it on his blog) was more of a weapon against the political enemies of its funders than anything else. When it really comes down to it, I don’t think this thing has as much to do with gays as it does with power, pure and simple. Like somebody said about red-baiting a while back, if a simple accusation can hurt somebody then anybody with a few enemies or a vengeful mentality is going to be accusing.


January 3rd, 2011

Erin, a lot of Uganda’s law (including the laws against homosexuality) is based on…or a holdover from…British colonial laws.

So I’d think libel and slander would carry significant penalties.


January 3rd, 2011


Basically, my thoughts too.

There’s no reason to believe that these people are actually gay. It’s simply the most awful, powerful accusation you can make against someone there, for the moment.

And I’m guessing that it works, just as red-baiting did here. No proof needed; just point your finger.


January 5th, 2011

it’s happened to one of uganda’s presidential candidates, olara otunnu… he’s had to deal with a nagging public fascination over his single status… speaking out against bahati’s bill didn’t help him much. nobody needs to ask him if he’s gay, the damage is already done. similar to the fate suffered by another candidate, kizza besigye, in a previous election… museveni cleverly got the electorate thinking that besigye was ‘sick’ and that his ‘sickness’ would ruin his ability to run the country.

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