Homosexuality: African versus Western media
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The international outcry following the jail sentence handed over to a gay couple in Malawi didn’t receive the same kind of coverage in Africa as it did in the West. For most African media, reflecting public opinion, the maximum sentence is justified.
The guests debating African media coverage of homosexuality are :
- Kondwani Munthali in Malawi , news analyst for The Nation. You can read his blog here
- Sheriff Bojang Jnr. in Senegal , producer & presenter at West Africa Democracy Radio. You can read his blog here
- Alex Duval-Smith in South Africa , Africa correspondent for a British newspaper, The Observer.
The Nation newspaper in Malawi broke the gay engagement story in December 2009 and closely followed the ensuing upheaval and trial. While the Nation attempts to give a balanced coverage, the newspaper’s “People’s parliament”, a column where Malawian citizens air their views, shows that the public firmly believes the 14-year jail sentence handed over to the two homosexuals is entirely justified. As do the members of Parliament in Malawi, says Kondwani Munthali.
According to Sheriff Bojang Jnr., the media in Senegal gave good coverage of the story from Malawi, but agreed with the sentence and used it as a warning for the gay community in the country. Bojang says that the tone in the media was harsh in condemning homosexuality. Some reporters said it is an illness brought by western tourists.
For Alex Duval-Smith, when it comes to homosexuality, the West feels it has the moral high ground, hence the extensive coverage given by the western media on the Malawi gay story.
Politicians in Africa seldom support equal rights for homosexuals. The comment often heard is that homosexuality is “not African”. Duval-Smith says that they are caught between pleasing potential voters and western donors.
In Senegal , Sheriff says that the media gave little coverage to violence against the gay community. It didn’t make much of the desecration of dead bodies of alleged gay men and tend to fuel anti-gay protests.
Munthali in Malawi says that the western organisations are making more noise about gay rights than the local ones. As a result, the issue is seen by the local people as a western one, an imported one that foreigners are trying to impose. Kondwani further argues that issues need to be prioritised: it is unfair to condemn a population because it is not fighting for the rights of two men to be married in public while it is still fighting and struggling for basic rights such as access to food, health care or education.
He adds that the language used by the West only serves to further antagonise the local population, citing a British politician, who said that the Malawian ruling wouldn’t have been possible in a civilised country.
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