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Homosexuals' lawsuit to prevent newspaper inciting violence (re Uganda)

In October 2010, three members of the civil society organisation Sexual Minority Uganda (SMUG) filed a lawsuit against tabloid newspaper Rolling Stone in Uganda, after the newspaper had published the names, photographs and homes addresses of people identified as homosexuals (including the plaintiffs). The plaintiffs argued that the publication exposed them to threats of violence and hatred, and violated their right to privacy, their right to life, and human dignity. In December 2010, the High Court ordered a permanent injunction to refrain further publication and awarded USh. 1,500,000 (about £400) to each plaintiff.

In October 2010 a Ugandan tabloid newspaper called Rolling Stone published several articles with dozens of names, photographs and home addresses of people it identified as homosexuals.  One headline read: “Hang Them; They are After Our Kids!!!! Pictures of Uganda’s 100 Homos Leak”.  One of the individuals identified by the newspaper, David Kato, was beaten to death with a hammer in his Kampala home on 26 January 2011.

In late October 2010 three members of Sexual Minority Uganda (SMUG), whose faces had appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, filed a lawsuit against the newspaper with the High Court of Uganda.  The plaintiffs were David Kato, Jaqueline Kasha and Patience Onziema – all advocates for the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda.  The plaintiffs sought an injunction to stop Rolling Stone from further publication of photographs, names or home addresses of people it identified as homosexual.  The plaintiffs argued that the newspaper’s publication exposed them to threats of violence and hatred violating their right to privacy and their right to life and human dignity.  The newspaper argued that because the plaintiffs had already exposed their sexual orientation online, their right to privacy could not be invoked.  It also argued that the plaintiffs were in breach of Uganda’s penal code, which identifies homosexuality as a criminal offence.

On 1 November 2010 the High Court issued a temporary injunction, ordering the newspaper to stop publishing the names, photographs and home addresses of people it identified as homosexuals.  The High Court issued a permanent injunction in December 2010 ordering Rolling Stone to refrain from further publication of the names, home addresses and photographs of the plaintiffs and any other individuals it claims are homosexual.  It further ruled that the story featured in Rolling Stone violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to privacy, human dignity and safety. Accordingly, the three plaintiffs were awarded monetary compensation of USh.1,500,000 each (over £400).

- “Uganda: Kato Murder Re-ignites Gay Rights Debate”, Joe Opio, IPS, 12 Feb 2011
- “Ugandan gay rights activist murdered weeks after court victory”, Xan Rice, Guardian [UK], 27 Jan 2011
- “Ugandans win damages over anti-gay newspaper article”, Peter Walker, Guardian [UK], 3 Jan 2011
- “Judge orders Ugandan paper to stop publishing 'gay lists'”, CNN, 2 Nov 2010
- “Ugandan paper ordered to stop printing list of gay people”, Xan Rice, Guardian [UK], 1 Nov 2010

- Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG): Press Release. Brutal Killing of Ugandan Gay Human Rights Defender, 27 Jan 2011
- Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law: [PDF] Civil Society Coalition Welcomes High Court of Uganda's Decision, Calls Upon Government to do More to Protect the Rights of Sexual Minorities, 8 Nov 2010

- [PDF] David Kato et al. v Rolling Stone Ltd., Case No. 163 of 2010, High Court of Uganda, 30 Dec 2010