PBS Gets It WRONG: Uganda’s Death Penalty Clause Has Not Been Removed

Jim Burroway

February 24th, 2012

Yet another journalist not getting his facts right in an otherwise good report:

Meanwhile, the anti-homosexuality legislation—with the death penalty clause removed—is working its way through a weeks-long hearing process.

No, no, a million times no!

Let’s go through this one more time!

It’s important to address the persistent false reports in the media that the death penalty has been removed from the bill. Those false reports have been reported as though they were fact since December, 2009. Part of the confusion has stemmed from the Ugandan governments’ pronouncements over the years that the bill has been “rejected”. In April 2010, that so-called “rejection” was followed by a government recommendation that the bill’s provisions be passed under the radar in other, less controversial bills. Additional reports of the government “shelving” the bill emerged in March 2011, only to be followed again a few weeks later with suggestions that the bill be carved up and passed unnoticed in other bills.

Finally in May of 2011, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which had been charged with the task of coming up with recommendations for the bill, issued their final report. They recommended removing some clauses of the bill, while also recommending the addition of a new clause criminalizing the conduct of same-sex marriages. As for the death penalty provision, the committee recommended a sly change to the bill, removing the explicit language of “suffer(ing) death,” and replacing it with a reference to the penalties provided in an unrelated already existing law. That law however specifies the death penalty. Which means that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended that the death penalty be retained through stealth. Bahati then went on to claim that the death penalty was removed even though it was still a part of the bill. The Eighth Parliament ended before it could act on the committee’s recommendation.

On February 7, 2012, the original version of the bill, unchanged from when it was first introduced in 2009, was reintroduced into the Ninth Parliament. The bill was again sent to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Despite reports to the contrary, the original language specifying the death penalty is still in the bill, and will remain there unless the committee recommends its removal and Parliament adopts that recommendation in a floor vote.

We have been following this story closely for exactly three years now, and have covered all of the ins and outs of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill since its introduction in October 2009.  So it’s not as if this information isn’t out there or difficult to find. Maybe someday journalists will get this right, but it doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon.

Lucrece

February 24th, 2012

Seems like we ought to mass e-mail him to attract attention to that mistake, and hopefully a correction.

Priya Lynn

February 24th, 2012

This is unbelievably frustrating, why are they so easily mislead?

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