Tuesday, June 26, 2018


The Swazi Observer group of newspapers is running a hate campaign against LGBTI people.

Over three days it has published articles prominently calling LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people ‘a curse’ and ‘evil’ and likening them to child sex molesters and people who have sex with animals. 

The reports which appeared on Thursday (21 June 2018), Friday and Sunday contained hate speech and broke Article 13 of the Swaziland National Association of Journalists code of conduct which states, ‘Hate speech: ‘Journalists shall avoid by all means the publication of speech that might promote hatred, spite and conflict amongst the Swazi or any other nation.’

Hate speech is a type of speech or writing which can do any of the following: deliberately offend, degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against someone based on their race, ethnicity, profession, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. It can be aimed at an individual; or racial, ethnic, religious or other group. Such speech generally seeks to condemn or dehumanize the individual or group; or express anger, hatred, violence or contempt toward them.

The Swazi Observer is in effect owned by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland / Eswatini as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The newspaper gave space to a witchdoctor and a bishop of a Swazi Zionist church to vilify LGBTI people and to attack a Pride event that is to take place on 30 June 2018.
The hate-filled coverage of LGBTI people in Swaziland newspapers is not confined to the Observer. The Times of Swaziland group, the only other mainstream newspaper in the kingdom, has published similar articles in the past. 

What the newspapers have in common is that they allow fundamentalist Christians to set the agenda on what it means to be an LGBTI person. They mainly concentrate on vilifying gay men. 

What the newspapers ignore is that modern scientific evidence shows sexual identity is natural and not some kind of learned behaviour and that LGBTI people do not pose a threat to society.

J Michael Bailey of the University of the Northwestern University, United States, and colleagues reviewed the available scientific research on the subject for the academic journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest in 2016 and concluded that there was considerably more evidence that sexual orientation is caused by the genetics of a person than by a person’s life experiences. In simple terms, people are born homosexual. 

They concluded the most often talked about social causes of homosexuality, that people are recruited by adult homosexuals or homosexuality is caused by poor parenting, is generally not the case. They also conclude there is no good evidence that homosexuality increases where societies are tolerant.

They also conclude that same-sex activity appears to have existed throughout human history and in most cultures, including throughout Africa. Claims that same-sex activity is absent in a particular culture are “often demonstrably false, even when the culture does not have the words to describe such activity”. They conclude that same-sex activity in Africa was observed from the earliest recorded times, which means it was in Africa before the European colonialists arrived and is not imported from the West.

They also conclude that same-sex interactions are common throughout hundreds of animal species so it is not something specific to humans.

Newspapers in Swaziland need to be careful about taking at face value opinions from people whose intention is to discredit LGBTI people. Sections of the church have been at the forefront of this. Editors might usefully question the motives of such writers. They should always question them and insist that the opinions they print are based on established information and not on hearsay, rumour or prejudice.

They would also be advised to consider that there are many LGBTI people in Swaziland and therefore among their readers (or potential readers) and they have the right to have their lives and views represented in the news media just like anyone else.

Richard Rooney

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