The Rolling Stone: Uganda Media Council and Uganda High Court Reactions

 "We'd had enough because we were in lots of danger already then Rolling Stone went a notch higher by calling for the hanging of gay people."
Pepe Julian Onziema, NPWJ's friend and LGBTI rights activist

Last year, a local MP, David Bhati, called for the death penalty for some homosexual acts. The proposed Anti-homosexuality Bill sparked an international outcry and a year later has not been formally debated by parliament.
Following the introduction of the Bill, a local newspaper called “The Rolling Stone” published an article on Uganda’s “top” homosexuals, inviting people to attack the men listed. The front page of the newspaper read “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak,” next to a banner reading “Hang Them.”

The newspaper released the men's photos, names, and addresses. Since it was published, many of the gay men on the list have been harassed and killed.
Following the publication of the article, Uganda's Media Council warned Rolling Stone that it had contravened the law. But Paul Mukasa, the council secretary, said the offence related to the paper's initial registration rather than its content. He said that the editors were addressing the problem, and would soon be free to publish again.
Regarding the story that has led to the harassment, Mukasa said a formal complaint needed to be made by a member of the public before the media council launched an investigation. This had not yet happened, he said. "If we receive complaints, we will subject this story to scrutiny, and see if it violates any of our laws or the ethics of journalism. We are not ruling out any action."
On 1 November 2010, the Ugandan tabloid “Rolling Stone” published an article entitled “Men of Shame Part II” with the names and pictures of 10 allegedly gay men. The article follows the infamous article published on 2 October 2010, which asked the general public to “Hang the Homes” in Uganda. The paper’s first article resulted in direct attacks on at least 8 people whose names and pictures were published in it, including a woman who was forced to flee her home after neighbours pelted it with stones.
Following a civil suit filed against the tabloid by a coalition of Uganda civil society organisations, the High Court of Uganda issued, on 1 November 2010, an interim order to cease any further publications by “Rolling Stone” that identify by name or picture or any relevant implication the person perceived by the respondents to be gay, lesbian or homosexual in general, pending a full hearing, scheduled for 23 November 2010.
On 13 October 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) expressed its grave concerns about this ongoing homophobic media campaign as well as widespread human rights violations faced by LGBTI people in Uganda, since an Anti Homosexuality Bill was submitted to the Parliament of Uganda one year ago. If adopted, that legislation would introduce life sentences or even the death penalty for homosexual acts.
The Ugandan delegation headed by Ms Rukia Isanga Nakadama, Minister of State for Gender and Cultural Affairs, attempted to reject any responsibility on the part of the Government of Uganda, as the Bill was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill and had not been formally sponsored by members of the Government. Similarly, Uganda denied any responsibility for the publication by the Ugandan newspaper “Rolling Stone”, claiming that it was an issue of freedom of expression and that the police would be responsible for dealing with any consequences that may arise. Nevertheless, the United Nations Committee found these claims not convincing, stating that this was 'a very unacceptable situation and a case of incitement to violence'.
At the beginning of 2011 a Ugandan High Court judge took a principled step ruling that media companies in the country should not publish the identities of people they say are homosexuals. The case was brought against The Rolling Stones and the decision was described as a "landmark ruling" by gay rights activists.
John Francis Onyango, David Kato’s lawyer, said: "The judge granted a permanent injunction against Rolling Stone from publishing these names but the ruling went beyond these applicants and extended to all media".