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Uganda: Smear campaign against LGBTI human rights defenders
Front Line is deeply concerned following reports of an intense media smear campaign against human rights defenders who work in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights organisations, including Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).
On 19 April 2009, the newspaper Sunday Pepper published an article, described as a 'killer dossier', listing the names of several human rights defenders and other LGBTI people. The article contained pictures, names, physical descriptions, details about their profession and residence, and negative stereotyping and accusations of “spreading the gay and lesbian vice in schools”. As it had announced, the Sunday Pepper published a follow up report on 26 April containing new names of LGBTI people as well as pictures of SMUG members.
On 23 April, the Family Life Network (FLN) presented a public petition to the Ugandan Parliament requesting new laws providing harsher punishment for homosexuality. The FLN has taken the lead in organising an anti-LGBT campaign and fomenting anti-LGBTI sentiments. This campaign, which TV, radio and printed media echoed, is fostering a climate of strong hostility and is encouraging attacks against LGBTI defenders. Two of them, whose names and pictures were published on several occasions on media, were physically attacked in two different areas of Kampala on 12 April 2009.
The authorities are contributing to the climate of hostility against LGBTI defenders through repeated statements both to the media and Parliament. As an example, on 2 April, the newspaper New Vision reported comments made by Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo, who stated that defenders working on sexual orientation and gender identity, being self-confessed LGBTI people, should be investigated and punished.
LGBTI defenders have been the subject of an increased level of harassment and threats in recent weeks including death threats.
It is feared that such a smear campaign will further incite people to hatred and violence against human rights defenders and members of the LGBTI community.
Front Line believes that the LGBTI human rights defenders have been targeted as a result of their legitimate work in defence of human rights, in particular their work to promote and protect the rights of the LGBTI community in Uganda. Front Line views the harassment and intimidation of the LGBTI defenders in Uganda as deeply worrying and expresses its serious concern for the physical and psychological integrity of all those named and identified in media reports, as well as that of all LGBTI human rights defenders in Uganda.