Zambian activists reject hazardous, homophobic article

The Zambian LGBT rights organization Friends of Rainka today issued a rebuke, with corrections, of a series of homophobic, potentially violence-inciting inaccuracies contained in a recent article in the online Zambian news site Tumfweko.com.

Friends of Rainka logo
Friends of Rainka logo

The article was part of a new wave of harassment of LGBT rights activists that has sent some of them into hiding.

The inaccuracies included:

  • Zambian human rights defenders are in Sweden for training, not for fund-raising.
  • The organization “has never promoted homosexuality or lured individuals into practicing homosexuality.”
  • Instead, it is committed to “fighting ignorance and bigotry through upholding the intrinsic human rights of all Zambian citizens.”

tumfweko-logoThe Tumfweko article, headlined “Gay Zambian Leaders Meet In Sweden To Raise Money To Promote Gay Rights In Zambia,” identified several Zambian LGBT rights activists by name and said they will face criminal charges on their return from Sweden.

“By exposing the identities of Zambian human rights defenders undertaking in sensitive work and misrepresenting their mission, Tumfewko.com has relinquished all credibility of responsible journalism,” Friends of Rainka stated.

It cited readers’ comments on the article as evidence of harm that it encouraged: “As can be seen by the comments section accompanying the article, the report published on October 24th, 2013 is a veiled incitement to violence that opens the human rights defenders and the LGBTI community to harm.”

Readers’ comments included:

  • “they should be taken to Mukobeko maximum prison in Kabwe and let them spend the rest of their lives there” and
  • “these idiots are sick..arrest them as they come back.”

But most comments focused on religious issues such as:

  • “This is a very sad development in Zambia, where we only uphold Christian values”
  • “Only Christ can transform such people. Beating, killing or putting them in jail doesn’t help” and
  • “They are Zambians like you, humans like you, sinners like you but more exposed than you.”

Many readers commented on the poor quality of the journalism, including the article’s inaccuracies and sloppy writing.

This is the text of the Friends of Rainka press release:

On Independence Day, October 24, 2013, local tabloid news media, Tumfweko.com, alleged that three named Zambian human rights defenders from Zambia have travelled to Sweden to raise $41,000 to promote gay rights in Zambia. The article further alleges that activists use funds raised abroad to “lure” young people into homosexuality. Tumfweko.com reports that a police investigation is underway and the activists will be charged upon their arrival in Zambia.

As Friends of RAINKA, Zambia we assert that the allegations reported by Tumfweko.com are blatantly false. Friends of RAINKA, Zambia is a human rights organization that engages in political and policy dialogue to ensure the equitable enjoyment of fundamental human rights for sexual and gender diverse persons.

Imagery from Rainbow Leaders Team webpage
Imagery from Rainbow Leaders Team webpage

The human rights defenders that are currently in Stockholm, Sweden, are attending a workshop facilitated by Rainbow Leaders Team, as a peer learning mechanism on policy and advocacy. None of the named human rights defenders at any point during this workshop have solicited for funds to promote gay rights in Zambia.

Through its work, Friends of RAINKA, Zambia has never promoted homosexuality or lured individuals into practicing homosexuality. As an organisation, we recognise the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) Zambians and work with stakeholders to secure their protection and ensure that their fundamental human rights are upheld.

As an organization, Friends of RAINKA, Zambia will not be intimidated by false claims and careless journalism of online media houses like Tumfweko.com. By exposing the identities of Zambian human rights defenders undertaking in sensitive work and misrepresenting their mission, Tumfewko.com has relinquished all credibility of responsible journalism.

As can be seen by the comments section accompanying the article, the report published on October 24th, 2013 is a veiled incitement to violence that opens the human rights defenders and the LGBTI community to harm.

Friends of RAINKA, Zambia and the LGBTI community remain united and committed to fighting ignorance and bigotry through upholding the intrinsic human rights of all Zambian citizens. The organization will continue to engage the Zambian government in respectful dialogue to reaffirm the commitments made through the ratification of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that affirms the right to dignity and respect of all people.

A PDF version of the press release is HERE.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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