Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Changes in the Press?

A remarkable transformation has occured in the print media in Uganda.

I am not kidding you. Or, maybe it is the fact that I am kidding myself. Because I am basing my observations on a single paper, though it is the Monitor, which is independent. And the change is not really perfect.

Last that I posted, I was decrying the character assassination that occurred of David Kato, in death. The dude died a violent death. And, the circumstances and what followed kind of opened the eyes of the populace to the sheer hate speech that characterises my country-mates' thoughts of me. And, there was a change.

The New Vision, which is the government owned paper, seems to have decided that not discussing anything concerning homosexuality is the policy. Kind of like ostrich head in the sand, and very funny. But, that is what happens in Uganda.

Of course, there is the likes of the red rug, or red chilli, which thrives on the most offensive of headlines. David Kato was a bum driller, etc, etc. Those are the things we gay Ugandans are used to.

And, when the character assassinating articles appeared in the Monitor, here and here in the Daily Nation of Kenya, I was incensed. Mainly because they dared to attribute to me things that I had not said at all. But, it was with a realisation that this was the usual fare of homophobic hate speech that was on offer. Fact. This is Uganda. And, these are Ugandan papers. The fact that the guy that they were character assassinating was dead would not stop them from imputing that he was HIV positive, quoting 'sources'.... Gutter press indeed.

But, have they redeemed themselves?

No, I have not got an apology. But, I cannot but appreciate the fact that the Monitor in Uganda has dared, and continued to produce a series of articles that are at least balanced. Very balanced. They would actually be termed 'promotion' of homosexuality, if Bahati had his way with the Anti-Homosexuality bill. Yes, they are that positive.

But, the articles have been instructive. Take this one, which examines our lives after the death of David. Closet homosexuals sink further under the radar after Kato’s death.

“The best way to hide is to fit in. Be as ordinary as everyone else and there will not be many questions to ask, and answers to give,” he adds. There is an ever-present sense of consciousness that runs on autopilot in the Ugandan gay man’s mind, Mukasa says. But that was before the murder of gay rights activist, David Kisule Kato last month, which, as Mukasa says, “Forces you to ask yourself whether you have watched your back well.”
Mukasa and Sam Musiime (also not real name), say the gay Ugandan living in the closet now has to add even more latches and keep the world away from the skeletons. “The aftermath of David Kato Kisule’s death is a strange atmosphere of confusion, fear, sadness, shock, and terror,” Musiime says, adding, “After watching a pastor deliver a less than savoury hate speech at his funeral, all I could think is, ‘they must think we are all mad’.”
Musiime and Mukasa are both in their late 20s and have kept their orientation a secret from many for nearly a decade now. “You tell no one. Only gay people like you ever get to know, and even then, you watch which gay person gets to find out because they too could sell you out, accidentally or not,” Musiime says. “The key is to ease into society as much as possible, behave like everyone else, even flirt with girls to portray the usual boy look,” Musiime says.

The reporter captures what our lives have been like, and continue to be in Uganda. Nothing that has not happened to me and mine, and continues to happen, even now. Afrogay pokes some fun at the reporter's obvious fascinated preconceptions. Well, no one but someone who has lived this life can understand the huge fact that we are taught to sink in, literally, because it is survival of those who can blend in best. Well, we do live in Uganda.

The Monitor has followed the story. With updates on the 'murder investigation'.... hey, I am seriously not going to say there was an investigation. Maybe made for camera? But then, you do realise that I am gay, Ugandan, and in this case, heavily biased? No way that I am going to accept the 'Gay Panic Defense'.

Mr Nsubuga said he did not intend to kill Kato, adding that he was only trying to defend himself.
“Kato wanted me to be his lover which I completely refused because I was not pleased with what he was doing to fellow men,” he said.
The gay panic defence indeed. Gosh, I hope that guy was truly confessing to something that he had done, and that the confession is not coerced. I simply find myself wondering whether to condemn him in the most vigorous of terms, but also there is the fact that the guy may simply not be guilty..... oh well, somewhere, I do have a conscious. And, it is simply not allowing me to lay to rest my fears..... Charles Onyango Obbo captures my ambivalence perfectly here.
The Uganda Police is not famous for its great investigative skills, so any time they quickly parade suspects who confess to a crime, the public has every right to be suspicious that the whole show has been fixed. 
And, yes, he writes an interesting article.

I know Obbo. Even in the days when the Monitor used to write bad articles, the usual fare about gays in Uganda, he was simply the voice of reason. I believe he founded the paper, got lots of flak from the government for not printing the government's points of views, and sold it to the current owners. but he is still working with them.

And, his article is interesting. Starting off with the 'Right' and 'Wrong' reasons for killing David Kato.... LOL, yes, the guy is provocative, but the analysis leaves me knowing that he has sat on the sidelines and seen a bit of both sides. It is worth reading. Mainly because he dares to say things which another person would not dare say in Uganda. That the government cannot be trusted, the police is manipulated, etc, etc.... But, it is a provocative article.

According to the Uganda Police, Sydney Nsubuga has confessed to killing Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato in his home in Mukono last week. Nsubuga had, according to the story, been having an affair with Kato and killed him in anger when the latter failed to give him the glittering presents he had promised.
Many don’t believe that account. First, because of the Uganda government’s rabid anti-gay views. Second, because a gay-hating tabloid called Rolling Stone was allowed to publish names of alleged gays or their supporters and call for them to be hanged, until a court stopped it. The government wasn’t going to lift a finger. In fact, it was suspected that some homophobic elements in the state might have been secret backers of Rolling Stone.

I will leave it here. And, also acknowledge that Wole Soyinka and a lot of other Nigerian academics are sending out some strong signals to African governments about homophobia.
 That kind of leadership is appreciated. The problem is not only in Uganda, I am forced to remember, many times.

Have a great day.

gug

1 comment:

Jackrabbit said...

I had seen the sympathetic Monitor article just yesterday, and I was rather surprised! It seems that nothing is simple or easily understood when it comes to the media and culture.

On the bright side, that ambivalence may be a good sign, gug. We had a vaguely similar tragedy in my home state when a gay college student was murdered, and the ambivalence we saw in the newspapers meant that many in the community were struggling with their old, homophobic beliefs about gays after his death. Things have changed a lot back home over the last decade because of it, though that change is not always easy to see.

So, maybe this strange response in the papers to the Kato tragedy signals a change in how many people have traditionally thought about homosexuality in Uganda. I certainly hope so! It will be a while before anything is certain.

Thank you for keeping the international community informed. It's getting hard to find updates in the US media.

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