Death by Newspaper: The Murder of David Kato

From Box Turtle Bulletin

The facts are horrowing. LGBT advocate David Kato Kisulle was murdered in Kampala, Uganda Jan. 26 after he successfully obtained a permanent injunction against the tabloid “Rolling Stone” for featuring his picture under the caption “Hang Them.” He was one of 100 gay men pictured in the paper.

The story is beginning to get significant press coverage in the United States, which has been often inconsistent in the coverage of anti-LGBT threats and political actions in Uganda.

The go-to source for information on Uganda–and now the death of Kato–is the blog Box Turtle Bulletin which features the reporting of Jim Burroway and Timothy Kincaid.

LGBT Ugandans have lived under a menacing atmosphere for more than a decade. The anti-gay hysteria has increased significantly since the introduction of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into parliament in 2009. That bill, which remains under review Parliamentary committee, would impose the death penalty on LGBT Ugandans under certain circumstances and criminalize all advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people. It would also criminalize even knowing someone who is gay if that person fails to report their LGBT loved one to police within 24 hours. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 18, and the bill is expected to be considered after Parliament returns for a lame-duck session before the new Parliament begins in May.

This horrendous murder adds to the fears that LGBT Ugandans regularly face over their safety. Brenda Namigadde, a lesbian asylum seeker in the U.K. has been threatened with deportation back to Uganda. Just yesterday, she received an ominous message from M.P. David Bahati, the author of the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, in which he said that Brenda must “repent or reform” when she returns home

What’s striking about BTB’s coverage–which includes the exhaustive Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate–is the seriousness that have in approaching their work. Here is Burroway’s assessment of whether he was the first to post the news:

Actually, I’m not sure if technically I was the first to post it. I had first learned about it about five hours before I posted it, but was waiting for confirmation of key information. In the beginning, there were a lot of rumors and unconfirmed reports swirling around. Some of them turned out to be false. but most of it tragically true. But it was important to wait for clarity because if I had gone with what I had heard earlier, the story would have had a very different arc and may have contained some false and inflamatory “facts.”

So waiting is always prudent if you’re not sure. I was mindful of the beheading hoax, as well as the false reports in the early going of the Tucson shooting that Rep. Giffords had died.

So I think Warren Throckmorton and Human Rights Watch technically broke this ahead of me, but not by very much. Just a few minutes. I think we were all prudent to post only when we each felt confident that we had confirmed facts to report.

Burroway was speaking about the July incident where there were well-sourced leads that beheadings had taken place in Uganda, only to later find out that the story was false.

The coverage of the anti-gay efforts in Uganda has been led by gay bloggers at BTB and–in a pairing worthy of a movie–evangelical scholar Warren Throckmorton whose relationship with the LGBT community is strained, at best. Whatever one thinks of Throckmorton’s approach to therapy for gays and transgender people, few have doubted his commitment to the Uganda story as both a chronicler and a critic.

In addition to BTB and Throckmorton, Huffington Post has done some very strong coverage of the death of David Kato featuring analysis and opinion pieces by Frank Schaeffer and Emma Ruby-Sachs.

Now, the question is how the story will be told in the traditional press.  The New York Times has a story from a correspondent in Kenya and the Associated Press also has extensive coverage from Uganda. CNN has an excellent story by David McKenzie.

We will continue to follow the coverage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: