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The Uganda Broadcasting Council (UBC) has suspended a popular Capital FM radio presenter for hosting gay activists who used "foul language" on air, effectively silencing a renewed debate on gay and lesbian rights, reports Kenya-based IFEX member the Media Institute.

Gaetano Kaggwa, who co-presents Capital FM's morning show, hosted a gay man and a lesbian on 22 August who allegedly used what UBC considers "unacceptable language", thus "violating minimum broadcasting standards." During the show two co-presenters opposed homosexuality while Kaggwa had "no problem with it," the Media Institute reports.

Kaggwa has been barred from going on air at least until 4 September when his suspension will be reviewed in another meeting between UBC and Capital FM proprietors. Programme controller George Manyali has also been suspended, say local news reports.

The suspensions, the first of their kind in Uganda's recent media history, were meant to protect the public, says UBC. But the Media Institute argues they were intended to silence the renewed debate on homosexuality, which is gaining momentum ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting slated for November in Kampala.

The homosexuality debate in Uganda has recently been fired up by an article published in the newspaper "Daily Monitor" on 11 August about the number of gay organisations and their registered followers.

Some Christian churches organised a demonstration against homosexuality and accused the paper of being influenced by gay staff members.

In response, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the umbrella organisation for Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex organisations, held its very first news conference. The group launched its "Let us Live in Peace" campaign - condemning violence and discrimination against homosexuals, as well as the "life-threatening" silence about homosexuality in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

The press conference sparked a series of public threats made by top officials, says Human Rights Watch. On 21 August, Deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhindi called for the criminal law to be used against gays and lesbians in the country. Days earlier, Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo had publicly called homosexuality "unnatural" - and, while belittling charges that police harassed LGBT people, warned, "We know them; we have details of who they are."

As a result of the ensuing threats, many SMUG members are now in hiding, and radio stations like Capital FM, who debate the top stories in the newspapers, "seem to have paid the price," says the Media Institute.

According to Human Rights Watch, the lesbian and gay community in Uganda has long been stigmatised and harassed by government officials. Ugandan laws, including the Constitution, prohibit homosexuality as well as same-sex marriages, and can lead to prison sentences of seven years up to life in jail.

Human Rights Watch is urging the government to end a long campaign of homophobic statements by top officials, stop arresting people under the sodomy laws and repeal them, and offer protection against violence and harassment to human rights defenders working to protect lesbian and gay rights.

Visit these links:
- Media Institute:
- Human Rights Watch appeal to Ugandan President re: homophobia:
- Human Rights Watch on government campaign against homosexuals:
- SMUG 16 August press release:
- "The New Vision" newspaper on Capital FM suspensions:
(Photo: Protest outside the Ugandan High Commission in London against the witch hunt of Ugandan lesbians and gays - September 2006. Photo courtesy of OutRage!)

(4 September 2007)

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