Rolling Stone Uganda's terrifying new tactics
- Theresa Mallinson
- 17 Nov 2010 10:46 (South Africa)
The Ugandan newspaper that outed several alleged homosexuals in early October was banned from publishing any more names and pictures at the beginning of this month. The paper responded in true loose canon fashion, with its latest issue accusing terrorist group Al-Shabaab of being a front for “bloodthirsty homosexual generals”. No, we're not making this shit up – Rolling Stone is. By THERESA MALLINSON.
“Being an editor of an investigative newspaper is one of the most complicated, demanding and stressing jobs in life. I have the best stories,,,i know not which to use as main story...or drop....very trying time....” (Republished verbatim – Ed). So wrote Giles Muhame on a Facebook update on 7 November. We wonder exactly how Muhame knows about the pressures of such a job; one can call Rolling Stone a lot of things, but the term “investigative newspaper” doesn't immediately spring to mind.
In the end, Muhame didn't choose to run with any of the hard-hitting investigative stories at his disposal (supposing they exist). Instead, the 15 November issue of Rolling Stone led with a piece of creative writing called: “Homosexual generals plotted Kampala terror attacks”. The three subheads read: “Sodomy experts plan overthrow of regional anti-gay presidents”; “New evidence shows homos given support to Kony, ADF and Al-Shabaab”; and “Silent pressure mounts on gov't to amend constitution and legalise homosexuality”. For a newspaper that isn't shy about publishing other people's names, the byline was a coy: “Our Investigator”.
Muhame is the managing editor of Rolling Stone (the Ugandan homophobic tabloid, not the American music magazine), a publication which first attracted international attention in early October, when its front-page headline read: “100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos leak”. The inside pages of that edition featured the names and pictures of several alleged homosexuals (although it mercifully fell far short of the promised 100), some of whom were reportedly attacked after their involuntary outing. Although Uganda's media council ordered the paper to cease publication (owing to its failure to register with said council, rather than because of its content), the paper flouted this command, coming out with its next edition on 1 November, with the front page screaming: “More Homos' Faces Exposed”.
However, the very same day, in a court case brought against Rolling Stone by LGBT rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda, high court judge Vincent Musoke-Kibuuka issued “an interim order restraining [Rolling Stone or any affiliated publication] from any further publication of the identity of any person perceived by them to be gay, lesbian or homosexual”. The order stands until 23 November, when the case will return to court.
Muhame responded to the ruling by telling AFP: “We will publish more pictures but in a diplomatic way, so that we can dodge the law.” Instead, he didn't publish any pictures of alleged homosexuals at all, but came out with the “homosexual terrorists” piece. The newspaper's one concession to the court order was to state: “None of the homosexuals whose faces we published recently was responsible for the carnage.”
But, oddly enough for a newspaper that refers to itself as “investigative”, the information that supposedly substantiated Rolling Stones' latest claims was all supplied by anonymous sources, including “a high-ranking source”, “a senior regional intelligence officer”, unnamed psychologists, and “a top intelligence chief”. Although the article proclaimed that “new evidence” had come to light, no credible evidence whatsoever was actually presented. Instead, readers of the publication were bombarded with litany of outlandish conspiracy theories, most notably that the Al-Shabaab-affiliated terrorists who conducted the July bombings in Kampala are “bloodthirsty homosexuals”.
In a bizarre riff on deductive reasoning, the writer's argument seems to be something along the lines of: 1. All gay people are bad; 2. The terrorists who orchestrated the Kampala attacks are bad; 3. Therefore, the terrorists are gay. Let's not even start unpicking the unsound premise, but the “logic” clearly doesn't hold up.
On one level, it's hard to treat Rolling Stone's sensationalist rhetoric with any degree of seriousness. As Box Turtle Bulletin's Jim Barroway notes: “Rolling Stone is saying let us publish the names and faces of private citizens, or we’ll go completely batshit crazy.” Just who else is Rolling Stone going to go after with accusations of homosexuality? The publication could hardly have chosen a more ludicrous target than Al-Shabaab. We haven't had the pleasure of reading the Al-Shabaab policy document on homosexuality, but we'd hazard a guess that the terrorist organisation is pretty much on Muhame's side on this one
What is all too transparent though is Rolling Stone's crude attempt to redirect the anger felt towards the Kampala bombers, and unleash it upon the country's homosexual community. And in a country that's already hugely homophobic, that's hugely scary. When the High Court meets again next week, it would do well to take the publication's latest edition into consideration. Homosexual individuals should be protected against hate speech; equally, the public should be protected against being fed outright lies. DM
Main picture: The front page of Rolling Stone, 15 November 2010.