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Posts for February, 2012

Advocate, WaPo, AP Get it Wrong On Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 9th, 2012

Why oh why can’t the mainstream media — or even the LGBT media — get this one right? Here’s the Advocate:

The measure was originally introduced in 2009 by David Bahati and called for same-sex sexual activity to be punishable with the death penalty or life imprisonment. Bahati reintroduced the bill on Tuesday without the death penalty provision, according to the AP, but left life imprisonment in as the maximum sentence for what he calls “aggravated homosexuality.”

And here’s the Associated Press (via Washington Post):

Bahati now says he has rewritten the bill to remove the death penalty provision, leaving life imprisonment as the maximum sentence for what he calls “aggravated homosexuality.”

This follows a similar false report from the BBC which claimed the same thing. The BBC has since made a slight modification to their report (which still carries the false headline “Uganda MP revives anti-gay bill but drops death penalty”) which now tells the real story:

Mr Bahati told the BBC’s Joshua Mmali in the capital, Kampala, that for procedural reasons, the bill had been reintroduced in its original form but that the provision for capital punishment would be removed at committee stage. [Emphasis added.]

The original form, which includes the death penalty, is here. As for the “committee stage”, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended a sly change to the bill. They recomended removing the explicit language calling for “death by hanging,” 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 bill currently is back in the hands of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, the same committee that attempted that sleight of hand trick last May.

Bahati has proven himself an excellent spinner, and writers reporting on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill have consistently failed to verify his words. Until they do, Bahati’s false statements will continue to be presented as though they were facts, and it will be the work of others to demonstrate again that his statements are manifestly untrue. Maybe someday writers for news outlets will begin to behave as journalists and not stenographers. But that day has not arrived.