A recent study by the Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA) and the Social Aspects of HIV/Aids and Health Research Alliance (Sahara) on the Senegalese media found that LGBTI issues are reported with prejudice thus further legitimising violence against homosexuals.
The study also found that the media in Senegal ignored the principles and rules related to the production of reliable information and that resorting to violence against homosexuals is made legitimate using gay panic self-defence claims and calls of “moral purification” which depend on homosexuality being associated with the fear of Aids.
PIWA adds that the reporting related to the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, the use of homosexuality as a wedge issue in the Zambian elections and the recent outpourings of religious hate speech in the Malawian and Ghanaian media are recent examples of how the media helps promote prejudice against LGBTI people.
In October 2010, the Rolling Stone, a Ugandan tabloid published images and personal details of an list of the country’s top 100 alleged homosexuals in an article titled “Hang them, they are after our kids.” This article followed another in The Red Pepper, another racy Ugandan tabloid infamous for previously running the same campaign against Ugandan homosexuals.
At the time, Rolling Stone Editor Guiles Muhame, vowed to continue publishing articles outing Ugandan homosexuals, despite a court ruling that permanently barred the newspaper from publishing such articles.
According to the PIWA study, the way forward in ensuring that LGBTI issues in African media are reported positively would be to provide communication professionals with research results and scientific information that will enable them to understand the complexity of the issue of homosexuality in relation to the Aids epidemic.
The study also recommends debates on media responsibility when it comes to the history and social construction of homosexuality in Senegal and in Africa as a whole. This would encourage, multiple views on religion and homosexuality, issues such as HIV among MSM, human rights, and the discussion of the legal environment in relation to homosexuality.
In Senegal, where homosexuality is illegal, the media comprises of both independent and state owned media.
PIWA is a regional non-governmental organisation that contributes towards democratising communication, and consolidating public space for open African societies, where citizens’ opinions and voices are heard.