Press Coverage of Obama’s LGBT Human Rights Policy Was Muted

Jim Burroway

December 7th, 2011

ThinkProgress found that yesterday’s announcements by the Obama Administration that American international agencies would use their resources to promote human rights for LGBT people worldwide was barely mentioned on American television. It’s getting a bit more play in the newspapers, but since fewer people are getting their news from newspapers, I wonder whether this is something that has, so far, slipped right past most Americans as they go about their days.

In Africa as well, yesterday’s announcement has been met mostly with silence  so far, although it generally takes a day or two before stories like this percolate through the press. Neither Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor nor the pro-government New Vision mentioned the story, although Daily Monitor does cover a talk by U.S. Ambassador Jerry Lanier urging Uganda to stand on its own economically, citing hard economic times in the U.S. which may result in lower levels of aid. Kenya’s Daily Nation, which is owned by the same media company as Uganda’s Daily Monitor, also didn’t cover the story. Neither did The Standard.

In Nigeria, where the country’s Senate recently passed a bill which would impose prison sentences for gay relationships and LGBT advocacy, a quick look at the Nigerian Tribune, Daily Sun, Vanguard, and Guardian revealed no mention of the story. The Nation carried a brief mention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech in Geneva. That story was pretty straightforward and was limited to quotes from Clinton’s speech. Punch, which I suspect may be a tabloid, although it’s articles are much more “newsy” than a typical tabloid, carried more thorough coverage of the Obama Administration’s policy, which Punch said “signposted the likelihood of a diplomatic showdown between Nigeria and the US, against the backdrop of last week’s passage of an anti-LGBT bill by the Senate.”  Punch asked Bola Akinterinwa of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs how the new initiative might affect diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Nigeria. Here’s Punch’s description of that exchange:

He described the bill as part of the country’s ‘municipal law’ which he said was different from international law.

According him, the municipal laws of a country are meant to be obeyed by all agencies and persons residing in the country where such laws are in operation. He said anybody, including foreign envoys, who contravenes the municipal laws can be convicted.

He said, “There is no problem there at all. First of all America has laws, Nigeria has laws. Those laws constitute what they call municipal laws. Municipal laws are quite different from international laws. International laws are also referred to as law of nations. The International law is the one governing all the nations of the world, whereas the municiapal laws govern the affairs of each country.

“If Obama is asking US agencies to promote gay rights or lesbian rights, they can do so. There is no problem as long as they will not infringe on the municipal law of their host countries. If they do, they will be tried based on the municipal law and they will be guilty.”

Senate leader Victor Ndoma-Egba also declared, “Nigeria is an independent nation; we are a sovereign state. We have our own values. We are not going to tie our indigenous values with the values to other nations.” He added, “How many states in the US have legalised same sex marriage? Why can’t they start from inside their own country before going out to other countries?”

In Malawi, which gained international attention when they convicted and later pardoned a same-sex couple for undergoing a traditional engagement ceremony, The Nyasa Times covered the story with a provocative photo of a “lesbian kiss.” Malawi has already suffered a cut in British aid last summer over a diplomatic row when the British ambassador criticized Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika for his increasingly autocratic actions. The Nyasa Times said that the Malawi President “defends Malawi laws for the criminalisation of sexual orientation when he adopted Zimbabwean President  Robert Mugabe’s lingo, describing gays as worse than dogs.”

The Times in Johannesburg carried a very comprehensive story in its paper this morning, including quotes from Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen and other U.S. LGBT advocates.


December 7th, 2011

Last night the BBC World Service carried it as their top story and even had it as the topic of discussion on their “World Have Your Say” call-in show (which featured plenty of Africans comparing homosexuality to necrophilia and paedophilia, though a couple gay Africans also took part.)

The BBC has 75-100 million listeners in Africa, so the coverage was larger than any newspaper.

Mark F.

December 7th, 2011

If you want the United States to cut off ALL tax financed foreign aid for anti-gay countries (as well as for everyone else), you need to support Ron Paul. With a $1.5 trillion budget deficit, this shouldn’t even be arguable.


December 7th, 2011

First, this is not news that the American media mute coverage of this and other progressive matters. The press, contrary to Right Wing charges, is not left-leaning, but, rather solidly right-biased in news reportage in general. This story of the non-coverage of the Nigerian hate towards gays is the proof of that pudding.

Secondly, if I’m not mistaken, I think I’ve heard time and again but cannot cite any sources at this time that world medical groups searching for cures and/or strategies to cope with for AIDS patients have discontinued their activities to help those African nations who dedicate themselves to legally approved antigay discrimination. The focus of the world medical establishment still targets AIDS control for those African suffering as such, but offers no more strategic or other help to those antigay governments themselves any longer at this point; which is completely understandable and acceptable to me in moho.

What do other readers/comments think of the ideas I’ve noted here?

Rob in San Diego

December 8th, 2011

I heard my local station KOGO complain about it. Said we should focus that money on the wars.

Priya Lynn

December 8th, 2011

“What do other readers/comments think of the ideas I’ve noted here?”.

I think that while the media is frequently left leaning it does with some regularity put a right wing slant on some stories, LGBT ones in particular.

What I do know about medical groups combatting AIDS in Africa is that they often point out that the anti-gay laws in such nations often impede efforts to deal with the disease. For example, when laws are passed threatening people with imprisonment for not reporting known or suspected gay people it forces such medical groups to stop some efforts to prevent and treat AIDS.

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