Ugandan tabloid published photographs with names, addresses until court intervened
A prominent Ugandan gay rights activist whose picture was published by a newspaper next to the words "Hang Them" was bludgeoned to death, officials said Thursday.
David Kato, an advocacy officer for the gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda, was found with serious head wounds at his home in Uganda's capital Kampala on Wednesday, a police spokeswoman said. Kato died from his injuries on the way to hospital, police said.
A Ugandan tabloid newspaper called Rolling Stone listed a number of men they said were homosexuals last year, including Kato. Kato's picture was published on the front page, along with his name and a headline that said "Hang Them." A judge eventually barred the tabloid from printing such stories and photos.
"Witnesses told police that a man entered Kato's home in Mukono at around 1 p.m. on January 26, 2011, hit him twice in the head and departed in a vehicle," New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
The rights organization called for an urgent investigation into Kato's murder, saying that his work as a prominent gay rights campaigner had previously seen him face threats to his personal safety. The organization called on the Ugandan government to offer gay people in the country sufficient protection.
"David Kato's death is a tragic loss to the human rights community," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "David had faced the increased threats ... bravely and will be sorely missed."
Rolling Stone published 29 photographs with names and, in some cases, addresses before the High Court ordered it to stop on grounds of privacy.
The first article -- which featured Kato -- ran under the headlines, "100 pictures of Uganda's top homos leak" and "Hang Them."
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A man reads the headline of the Ugandan newspaper "Rolling Stone" in Kampala. Kato's photo, top left, was published by the anti-gay newspaper next to the words "Hang Them."
Giles Muhame, the 22-year-old editor of the newspaper, told Reuters he condemned the murder and that the paper had not wanted gays to be attacked.
"If he has been murdered, that's bad and we pray for his soul," Muhame said. "There has been a lot of crime, it may not be because he is gay. We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality, not for the public to attack them. We said they should be hanged, not stoned or attacked."
Kato and two other gay activists sued the newspaper over claims that it had violated their constitutional rights to privacy and won the case earlier this month. A judge issued an injunction banning the publication of the identities and personal details of alleged homosexuals.
Frank Mugisha, the chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said he has asked religious leaders, political leaders and media outlets to stop demonizing sexual minorities in Uganda since doing so creates a climate of violence against gay persons.
"Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss of David, a dear friend, colleague, teacher, family member and human rights defender," said Mugisha, who said Kato had been receiving death threats since his face was on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Uganda's anti-gay movement first made international headlines in October 2009 when a bill was tabled in the country's parliament proposing the death penalty for homosexuals who are "repeat offenders."
President Barack Obama denounced it as "odious" and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to express concern.
It was quietly shelved under the pressure, but rights groups fear it may be passed after a February presidential election that Museveni is expected to win.
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The introduction of the bill followed a conference in Kampala attended by American activists who consider same-gender relationships sinful, and believe gays and lesbians can become heterosexual through prayer and counseling. Some gay Ugandans still resent that American intervention.
"David's death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S evangelicals in 2009," said Val Kalende, a Ugandan gay rights activist. "The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S evangelicals must take responsibility for David's blood."