Biased Amplification: Murder of Gay Activist in Uganda


By Eden Yohannes

David Kato - Ugandan Gay ActivistAddis Ababa, March 3, 2011 ( -- The year started out with the news of the brutal killing of a gay right activist in Uganda, David Kato. He was beaten to death with a hammer in his neighborhood. Ahead of the killing a tabloid paper RollingStone published the full names, addresses, and photographs of 100 prominent and allegedly gay Ugandans with a title "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos," This was a breach of privacy by itself, but the paper also went on to call for their execution. Four years prior another news paper, The Red Pepper, published a list of the names and professions of number of allegedly gay men, many of whom suffered harassment as a result. The story got cover both in the western and African Media; as the western media tried to focus on illegality of homosexual relations in Uganda and the denial of basic human rights, while the African media had a chance to report on a taboo subject in the continent.


On 29 September 2005, President Yoweri Museveni signed onto law prohibiting same-sex marriage. According to the amendment, “marriage is lawful only if entered into between a man and a woman,” and “it is unlawful for same-sex couples to marry”. This made Uganda the second country in the world to do so. Despite the severe punishment related to homosexual acts, Gay and Lesbian right activist organizations are abundant. Recently, a bill was proposed for a punishment of up to life imprisonment for people engaging in homosexual activities and death penalty for repeat offenders.


Uganda and the African continent in general can only be characterized as ‘’homophobic.’ Even if the laws in place in these countries are not exercised, citizens tend to take law into their own hands. It has been reported that gays and lesbians face discrimination and harassment at the hands of the media, police, teachers, and other groups. Typical example would be the horrifying death of gay right activist David kato – the leader of the ‘Sexual Minorities Uganda’ which was founded in 2004.


Questionable interest has been shown by the western media which many regard taking the story overboard and accusing the Ugandan society of hate crime. Some speculate their interest does not end at a human right activism only, but rather seen as an opportunity to ‘impose’ the western way of life.


Another theory for the west to have a special interest on the story is that it is considered as an instigator of conflict in the country and the region as a whole.  Hence, it was just easier to blame the whole thing on a hate crime. The western media rather report that an Ugandan gay activist was brutally killed but will not comment on a leader who have stayed in power for more than 20 years and supported by Western Governments. 



Eden Yohannes


Eden Yohannes is Addis Ababa based reporter for She can be reached by sending email through this form.



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