A Ugandan newspaper has been accused of encouraging human rights abuses by publishing the names of alleged homosexuals.

Red Pepper, a Ugandan tabloid, published the first names and workplaces of 45 men accused of homosexuality. A list of known lesbians is planned.

A later article, about the Ugandan police’s hunt for a man named Geoffrey M. Mugisha in connection with homosexuality offences, stated the police were hunting for [him] like a gold coin, and appealed for public cooperation before he -˜pollutes’ the population.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, the article read. It doesn’t conform to the natural way in which human beings should live. Naturally it is supposed to be man and woman.

A spokeswoman from New York-based Human Rights Watch said the publication of the list of names was an extension of a long-running government campaign against Uganda’s gay and lesbian community.

President Yoweri Museveni’s government routinely threatens and vilifies lesbians and gays, and subjects sexual-rights activists to harassment, Jessica Stern said.

At a moment when sensational publicity has spread fear among a whole community, the authorities must exercise their responsibility to protect, not persecute.

Stern said Red Pepper had a long history of homophobic reporting, including a 2002 report of a same-sex wedding in Kampala. The two women involved were later arrested.

An unnamed Red Pepper editor later told the BBC the men were not identifiable in the article, which was written because of high reader interest in homosexuality.

It’s one of the interesting things for people to read in a tabloid because in African societies homosexuality is still seen as strange, he said.

We don’t want to expose them (homosexuals) to the government and the police has never contacted us to investigate the list. This country is very, very tolerant.

According to Human Rights Watch, Ugandan laws prohibit carnal knowledge against the order of nature with penalties of life imprisonment.

And President Museveni in 2002, in response to questions about his nation’s HIV/AIDS prevention programs, denied homosexuality existed in Uganda.

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