Friday, 28 January 2011

Sometimes the Effect of Words Can Hurt or Kill You #DavidKato #Uganda

One of the saddest things I read this morning about the killing of Ugandan gay activist David Kato, is not the fact that he was killed for being gay, but that some haven't noticed the effect of their words.

We had a recent sentencing on a homophobic murder in Trafalgar Square, but we didn't have the national press calling for gays to be hung weeks before. However, the words of Giles Mulhame the managing editor of Ugandan weekly show no remorse. His paper on 2 October 2010 published a picture of Kato with his address details under the headline "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos Leak" and across it the words hang them. While he said he was sorry for the family he said Kato lived in an area where murder was common, going on to say:

"This looks like any other crime. I have no regrets about the story. We were just exposing people who were doing wrong".

Apart from the fact the the group which Kato worked for Sexual Minorities Uganda took the paper to court to stop them publishing more details. They were successful. As Kato left court more death threats were directed at him. That means this was not like an ordinary crime, nor with the number of death threats that apparently he had been receiving should anyone consider it might just be a coincidence of an accidental "just another" murder before the police announce their findings. But this is what a newspaper proprietor thinks he can do.

Yes Rolling Stone in Uganda was exposing people, but in a way that leaves them unprotected from a vigilante. Unprotected from a loose cannon, or in this case a hammer wielder. Someone who the paper had given all the details they needed, image and address and the edict to hang David Kato and 99 others. With freedom comes responsibility, with the words that we use we must think of possible consequences. Mr Mulhame hasn't realised yet that the words in his paper led to this murder. The blood is as much on his hands and the person with the hammer that hit David Kato twice in the head killing him.

But it couldn't happen here in the UK, surely? Actually men have been charged with handed out leaflets calling for the death penalty for LGBT people in Derby. It only takes one person to form their own vigilante execution squad to mean one LGBT person is exposed to immense risk and possible lose their life.

As Johann Hari wrote so well this morning in the Independent we only want to be treated the same, that is the end of the gay agenda.

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