Ugandan activist on tabloid list of LGBT citizens: ‘they are using us to make sales’

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Ugandan LGBT rights activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who was on the list a tabloid newspaper published of LGBT citizens, spoke Wednesday on the CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi.

“Why are they doing this?” Ghomeshi asked. “Why are the newspapers and other media hostile toward the gay community in Uganda?”

“They’re doing this because, first of all, they are using us to make sales,” Nabagesera said. “The issue of homosexuality is a very controversial issue in the country. So everyone will definitely run to buy a newspaper … it’s really just taking advantage of a marginalized community.”

In Kampala, Uganda on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie)

On Tuesday, Red Pepper, a Ugandan tabloid newspaper, published a list of 200 LGBT citizens, Associated Press correspondent Rodney Muhumuza reported, “outing some Ugandans and raising fears of violence against those named just a day after the president enacted a severe anti-gay law.”

Many on the list “are scared and they need help,” said Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent Ugandan gay activist who was named in in the Red Pepper tabloid. “Some want to leave the country and they are asking to be helped.”

On Tuesday, the BBC reported that Red Pepper is one of the biggest selling newspapers in Uganda. Another magazine published a similar list in 2011, the BBC reported.

In 2011, Ugandan gay activist David Kato was killed in what rights activists said was a homophobic attack.

His name had appeared on a list published by the now-defunct Ugandan Rolling Stone magazine, calling for the execution of gay people.

Anti-gay laws previously existed in Uganda, Elias Biryabarema reported on Monday for Reuters.

The new bill strengthened existing punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for “aggravated homosexuality” – including sex with a minor or while HIV-positive.

It criminalized lesbianism for the first time and made it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts. Gay rights activists in Uganda said they planned a legal challenge.

Miriam Berger reported Tuesday for BuzzFeed about how some other Ugandan newspapers were cheering on the new law with their own headlines, including “Beware.”

Headlines like these are a recurring theme in Ugandan’s notoriously corrupt and sensationalist media. Critics say the strong anti-LGBT rhetoric in tabloids like the Red Pepper and Rolling Stone is also a commercial ploy to increase readership.

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