The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) have today called on media in Uganda to report the issue of homosexuality in a responsible manner.
The call follows several reports that Red Pepper, a private Ugandan tabloid newspaper, has published a list of the names of what it described as the country's "200 top homosexuals". The list was published on Tuesday, 25 February, one day after the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, signed into law an anti-gay bill toughening penalties for gay people.
Reports said homosexual acts were already illegal in Uganda, but the new law bans the promotion of homosexuality and covers lesbians for the first time. Red Pepper's list appeared under the headline: "Exposed", raising concerns of a witch-hunt against gay people. Many of the people named on Red Pepper's list are known to be homosexuals, and some of them live abroad, according to reports.
The IFJ and its African groups have called on Ugandan journalists to beware of the dangers of prejudice and risks of violence facing people who are publicly accused of homosexuality, saying that information should be handled in a professional manner to ensure due process and avoid trial by media.
"The new law does not exonerate journalists from their responsibility to avoid promoting hatred, discrimination and violence in media," said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa director. "We are very concerned by the recent developments in Ugandan media and urge restraint against such witch-hunts which have no place in journalism."
The IFJ has pointed to its principles on the conduct of journalism which state that: "The journalist shall be aware of the danger of discrimination being furthered by the media, and shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discrimination based on, among other things, race, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins."
The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) have also vigorously condemned the naming of alleged homosexuals in the Ugandan media.
"This publication puts people in mortal danger in a very conservative country," said FAJ President, Mohamed Garba. "We call on media in Uganda to report the issue in an ethic manner".
IFJ's regional group in Eastern Africa also raised concerns on the danger of publishing the list. The General Secretary of the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA), Alexandre Niyungeko, warned of the prejudice this kind of reporting may create. "Media need to guard against such forms of hate speech," he said.
IFJ, FAJ and EAJA have jointly called for the introduction of practical measures that will improve the content of journalism in Uganda on sensitive issues, such as homosexuality.