Reporting About LGBTI Issues in the African Media

Published: July 26, 2011

The Panos Institute West Africa in collaboration with the SAHARA Programme (Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS & Health Research Alliance) completed a study on how the Senegalese media reports on LGBTI issues. The results of the study are useful for thinking about how the media reports on LGBTI issues not just in Senegal but in other parts of Africa as well.

According to a summary of the report:

An analysis of the print media during critical periods that witnessed the rise of homophobia in 2008-2009 highlighted the production of an image of homosexuality that was based on the following ideas:

Homosexuality is portrayed as a new import from the West, supported by dark lobbying groups. 

The image of homosexuality portrayed by the media is one of an existential threat against society and its sacred foundations 

Resorting to violence against homosexuals is made legitimate by self-defence and "moral purification"
Homosexuality is illustrated in association with the fear of AIDS.

The analysis of the means of production of the media’s outlook indicates that several print media newspapers handled homosexuality with prejudice. The analysis of contents gives rise to several hypotheses:

The print media reproduced representations related to ignorance of the complexity of the stakes relating to human rights and HIV/AIDS (including a limited knowledge of social science research)
The media ignored the principles and rules related to the production of reliable information.
Use of the Media to Promote Prejudice Against the LGBTI Community

The reporting about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 in Uganda, the use of homosexuality as a wedge issue in the Zambian elections and the recent outpouring of religious hate speech in the Malawi and Ghanaian media are recent examples of how the media helps promote prejudice against LGBTI persons.

Here are a few examples of media coverage in the above situations:

"100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak: Hang Them" (Rolling Stone, Uganda).
"David Bahati told journalists in Kampala today that though Kato’s death is unfortunate, it should open Ugandans’ eyes to the illegality of homosexuality. Bahati described kato as a humbled soul long and hard to see the future of children destroyed and marriages broken up by illegal acts. He says though his death may have had nothing to do with his acts, it has everything to do with the financial resources set to these individuals by donors, which could have attracted the attention of the assailants" (UG Pulse, Uganda).
"THE church has vowed to campaign against Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata for advocating gay rights. And Chief Government spokesperson Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha said what Mr Sata is advocating is an abomination and the church must rise against such leaders" (Lusaka Times, Zambia).

"Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) Secretary General Sheikh Imran Sharif Mohammed said there is no way they can cooperate gays and lesbians in the community as it is against their doctrine. “Homosexuality is sin and is punishable by beheading. The Holy Koran clearly states that any community which indulges in these acts is calling for calamities like those that happened to Sodom and Gomorrah,” said Mohammed, a lecture at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College" (Nyasa Times, Malawi).
"The Western Region Minister Paul Evans Aidoo has ordered the immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the region. He has tasked the Bureau of National Investigations and all security agencies to smoke out persons suspected to be engaging in same sex. He also enlisted the services of landlords and tenants to provide reliable information which will lead to the arrest of homosexuals" (MyJoyOnline, Ghana).
These sustained media campaigns have serious consequences and have resulted in government threats to investigate LGBTI persons in Ghana, the harm of the Sata campaign in Zambia and possibly the murder of David Kato in Uganda (who was a plaintiff in the landmark legal victory against the Rolling Stone).

Full text of article available at link below –

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