Rolling Stone (Uganda)

Rolling Stone was a weekly tabloid newspaper published in Kampala, Uganda. The paper published its first issue on 23 August 2010, under the direction of 22-year-old Giles Muhame and two classmates from Kampala's Makerere University.[2][3] According to Muhame, the paper's title was derived from the local word enkurungu: "It's a metaphor for something that strikes with lightning speed, that can kill someone if it is thrown at them".[2] The paper was small, with a circulation of approximately 2000 copies.[3] It suspended publication in November 2010, after the High Court ruled that it had violated the fundamental rights of LGBT Ugandans by attempting to out them and calling for their deaths. One of those listed, David Kato, was subsequently murdered.

Rolling Stone
Managing editorGiles Muhame[1]
Founded23 August 2010 (2010-08-23)
Ceased publicationNovember 2010
HeadquartersKampala, Uganda

The Ugandan paper was unaffiliated with the American magazine Rolling Stone, which later described the Ugandan paper's actions as "horrific" and protested its choice of name.[4]

Reporting on homosexuality

On 9 October 2010, the newspaper published a front-page article—titled "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos Leak"—that listed the names, photographs and addresses of 100 homosexuals alongside a yellow banner that read "Hang Them".[3][5] The paper also alleged that homosexuals aimed to "recruit" Ugandan children. This publication attracted international attention and criticism from human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International,[6] No Peace Without Justice[7] and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.[8] According to gay rights activists, many Ugandans have been attacked since the publication as a result of their real or perceived sexual orientation.[9] One woman was reportedly almost killed when her neighbors began to stone her house.[10]

In a subsequent issue, Rolling Stone alleged a connection between Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab and Ugandan homosexuals under the headline "Homo Generals Plotted Kampala Terror Attacks", charging "a gay lobby" with complicity in the July 2010 Kampala suicide bombings.[2]

Court case

Following a second published edition listing the identities and addresses of alleged homosexuals, the gay rights organization Sexual Minorities Uganda petitioned the Ugandan High Court against the newspaper. On 2 November 2010, the court issued its verdict, ordering the newspaper to stop publishing the identities of Ugandan gays, shut down, and pay 1.5 million Ugandan shillings plus court costs to each of the plaintiffs.[11][12][13] The ruling said that these lists and the accompanying incitement to violence threatened the subjects' "fundamental rights and freedoms", attacked their right to human dignity, and violated their constitutional right to privacy.

Immediately following the verdict, Muhame told reporters that "the war against gays will and must continue. We have to protect our children from this dirty homosexual affront".[12] In January 2011, he announced the paper's intention to appeal the decision.[14] He said that the paper was also gathering signatures of support from Ugandans.[14]

The unrelated U.S. magazine Rolling Stone called the newspaper's actions "horrific" and stated that Rolling Stone magazine has "demanded they [the Ugandan newspaper] cease using our name as a title".[4] However, the magazine had little legal recourse because, despite copyrighting the name "Rolling Stone" in a large number of countries, they had not copyrighted it in Uganda. As publisher Jann Wenner stated, "There's nothing we can do. We never copyrighted the name in Uganda. We own the copyright for the name in many, many countries. But who would have thought we'd have to own the copyright in Uganda?"[15]

The International Press Institute sent a letter to Muhame condemning his actions after his paper was shut down by the countries Constitutional Court. "IPI believes that when newspapers publish articles that expose private information about individuals who are outside the public eye, and when they call for violence against those individuals, they do a disservice to journalists around the world who are fighting for press freedom...Such transgressions of professional journalistic ethics make all journalists look bad – and make it harder to argue for press freedom without government restriction."[16]

Kato murder

Sexual Minorities Uganda leader David Kato, one of the activists outed in the article and a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, was murdered in his home by an intruder who struck him twice on the head with a hammer.[17] The American magazine Rolling Stone,[11] The New York Times[18] and other news sources[19] suggested that the murder was linked to Kato's high-profile outing in the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone, and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both called for an investigation into the case and protection for other gay activists.[19]

Muhame condemned the murder and expressed his sympathies for Kato's family, but added that he believed that the paper was not responsible and that the murder was a simple robbery: "I have no regrets about the story. We were just exposing people who were doing wrong".[20] Muhame stated to the Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor, that Kato "brought death upon himself. He hasn’t lived carefully. Kato was a shame to this country".[21] To CNN, he said, "When we called for hanging of gay people, we meant ... after they have gone through the legal process ... I did not call for them to be killed in cold blood like he was".[22]

See also


  1. CanuckJacq (5 January 2011). "Ugandan editor willing to 'go to jail' to out gays". gaelick. Archived from the original on 13 January 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  2. Xan Rice (June 2011). "Death by Tabloid". The Atlantic. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  3. "Gays in Uganda say they're living in fear", Godfrey Olukya & Jason Straziuso, NBC News, Associated Press
  4. "Not In Our Name: Ugandan Newspaper’s Horrific Action", Rolling Stone, 21 October 2010
  5. "Ugandan paper calls for gay people to be hanged", Xan Rice,, 21 October 2010
  6. "Ugandan gay rights activist: ‘I have to watch my back more than ever'", 5 November 2010
  7. "Uganda: Stop homophobic campaign launched by Rolling Stone tabloid", 14 October 2010, No Peace Without Justice
  8. "Uganda Newspaper Published Names/Photos of LGBT Activists and HRDs – Cover Says 'Hang Them'" Archived 1 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
  9. "Outcry as Ugandan paper names 'top homosexuals'", Simon Akam, The Independent, 22 October 2010
  10. "Uganda's Rolling Stone paper told to stop outing gays". BBC News. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  11. Court Affirms Rights of Ugandan Gays
  12. "Uganda court orders anti-gay paper to shut". Reuters. 2 November 2010. Archived from the original on 5 November 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  13. "Judge orders Ugandan paper to stop publishing 'gay lists'", CNN International, 2 November 2010
  14. Giles Muhame (3 January 2011). "UGANDA TALKS EXCLUSIVE: Rolling Stone newspaper to appeal High Court ruling". The Independent (Uganda). Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  15. "Jann Wenner: 'Who Would Have Thought We’d Have to Own the Rolling Stone Copyright in Uganda?'", 20 October 2010, New York Magazine
  16. Ugandan Judge Says Rolling Stone Paper Invaded Privacy in Outing Alleged Gays IPI to Rolling Stone: You Make Our Job Harder
  17. Rice, Xan (27 January 2011). "Ugandan gay rights activist murdered weeks after court victory". The Guardian.
  18. Gettleman, Jeffrey (27 January 2011). "Ugandan Who Spoke Up for Gays Is Beaten to Death". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  19. Rice, Xan (29 January 2011). "Murdered Ugandan gay activist talked of threats". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  20. Xan Rice (27 January 2011). "Ugandan 'hang them' paper has no regrets after David Kato death". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  21. Risdel Kasasira (28 January 2011). "World condemns killing of gay activist". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  22. "Mourners to remember gay rights activist beaten to death". CNN. 28 January 2011.