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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day After Uganda’s Antigay Law Is Signed, a Tabloid Publishes Names

In October 2010, a tabloid newspaper in Uganda called Rolling Stone published a front-page headline: “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak. Hang Them.”

About three months later, Uganda’s most outspoken gay rights activist, David Kato, whose name was published, was beaten to death in his neighborhood, as my colleague Jeffrey Gettlemen reported at the time.

Now, gay activists, rights groups and others are once again remembering Mr. Kato as they fear the response to a new report, this time by a Ugandan tabloid called Red Pepper, published Tuesday, just a day after President Yoweri Museveni signed a sweeping antigay bill into law.

“Exposed!” the headline said. “Uganda’s 200 Top Homos Named.”

Jacqueline Kasha, a Ugandan activist, and others shared an image of the Red Pepper front page on Twitter, with a warning.

At the time Mr. Kato was killed, Parliament was considering the death penalty as punishment for gay sex in some cases. Under the bill Mr. Museveni signed,life in prison is the maximum penalty.

Reaction to the law has included a renewed focus on the work of American evangelicals in Uganda in support of the legislation, mostly that of Scott Lively, who visited in 2009 to speak to Parliament.

Mr. Lively said in a statement published Tuesday on his website that, in terms of “simple homosexuality,” “the focus of a government seeking to protect its people from the homosexual agenda should be on rehabilitation and prevention, not punishment.”

He is being sued in federal court in Massachusetts by a Uganda gay rights group, Sexual Minorities Uganda, which accuses him of violating international law by inciting the persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.

On Tuesday, the rights group posted on its Twitter account news of a fatal attack on a gay couple that it placed in context of the new law.

Pepe Onziema, a prominent gay rights activist in Uganda, said efforts were being made to confirm the reports.

On its Facebook page, Red Pepper, described as a private, independent tabloid daily that started publishing in 2001, links to news articles about events in South Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria. The page’s “Topic of the Day” on Tuesday focused on a man complaining that his girlfriend wore skimpy clothes.

On Tuesday, another Facebook page popped up to urge a boycott of the newspaper after it published its list, and called on people to post examples of its journalism inciting hatred.

Mark Schenkel, a journalist who covers East Africa, said the newspaper had listed fewer than 200 people, and he provided a quotation from the article, which did not appear to have been posted immediately online.

Frank Mugisha, a gay rights activist in Uganda, said on his Twitter account:

The Associated Press reported from Kampala that the news editor of Red Pepper, Ben Byarabaha, said the paper had published the full names of only well-known activists and had tried to use nicknames for those who had not made their sexual orientation public.

The A.P. reported that the list included prominent Ugandan gay activists such as Mr. Onziema, who has repeatedly warned that the new law could set off violence against gay and lesbian Ugandans; a Ugandan hip-hop star; and a Catholic priest.

Others, including a retired Anglican cleric who supports gay rights, are listed as sympathizers, the news agency said.

RFI recorded an interview with Mr. Byarabaha, who said he did not say they were “gay,” but “I say they are sympathizers.”

Asked whether he thought something would happen to those on the list, he said, “Nothing, nothing.” Asked if readers might take the law into their own hands, he responded, “No no no no.”

The interviewer, Daniel Finnan, also asked whether Mr. Kato “was not killed” after the publishing of the list in Rolling Stone, which is no longer exists and has no relation to the American magazine.

Mr. Byarabaha replied: “No, that is not true. He had a misunderstanding with someone.”