Radio Buddu and the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill

 
ABSTRACT

This is one in a group of cases the Case Consortium developed in conjunction with the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications, slated to open in Nairobi. The cases, which look at various aspects of journalism practice in East Africa and South Africa, are being distributed under an agreement with Columbia University. They will be available as well on the AKU website. 

AKU-13-0007.0 This case looks at the challenges of reporting on homosexuality in a society with complicated attitudes toward the issue. In September 2009, a Ugandan member of Parliament tabled an bill that called for the criminalization of homosexual acts and the death sentence for “aggravated homosexuality.” Moses Walugembe was a news anchor and talk show host at Radio Buddu in rural Uganda. In late 2009, Walugembe wanted to host a show exploring the pros and cons of the anti-homosexuality bill, its social ramifications and legal status. However, homosexual activities in Uganda had long been criminal and Uganda had a history of social conservatism. In fact, most Ugandans subscribed to the idea that that the bill was a positive development and in line with Ugandan moral norms. Moreover, Uganda’s official Broadcasting Council forbade discussions of issues that ran “contrary to the public morality.” Walugembe himself was against homosexuality on religious grounds. But as a journalist, he favoured the balanced reporting of social issues. He had to decide: proceed with the show, or drop it?

Use this case to ask students whether there are some subjects which, because of a consensus in society, should not be discussed in a pro/con framework? Is it a journalist’s responsibility to try to persuade an audience to see all sides of an issue? Does it make sense to host a debate on the bill in Uganda, or is the risk of alienating the audience and damaging the station’s reputation too great? This case can also provide a basis for discussion about covering controversial social and religious issues; fairness and balance in reporting; covering LGBT issues; and reporting in settings adverse to press freedom. 

This case can be used in a course/class on journalism ethics; editorial decision making; reporting on human rights and social issues; or reporting on politics.

Credits:

This case was written by Anzetse Were for the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications.

© 2013 The Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications. No part of this publication may be reproduced, revised, translated, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the written permission of Aga Khan University.

 
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