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Are my genitals relevant to your story? Media fanned anti-gays hate

The same-sex debate dominated last week’s mediascape.

We refuse to use LGBTQ because, like every journalist ought to, we fear long words – like lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.

And long words were tossed around in heated debates that followed the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of association for persons in same-sex relationships.

We reported Bill, Kenya’s President, saying “…he will not allow men to compete with women for other men.”

We reported his deputy, Riggy G, describing same sex relations as “satanic”.

We reported that the same-sex relationship debate had ‘united’ Bill and his nemesis, Raila Odinga.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Rao has waded into the debate. Back in 2010, the then Prime minister called for the arrest of all persons involved in same-sex relationships.

We reported honourable Members of Parliament pushing for a law to have persons in same sex relationships declared outlaws and jailed for life – a lesser evil compared to their counterparts in Uganda who wanted person in same-sex relationships sentenced to death.

Why, we even regurgitated a lame conspiracy theory about Americans using aid to “push gay agenda,” whatever that means.

We, the mediascape observers forgive you, for you know what you did.

You gave acres of space to lynch mobs baying for the blood of persons – human beings – in same sex relationships, and very little space to men and women so loudly condemned.

In the witch-hunt, you, the media, quietly blew into the fire; barely hiding you bigoted disdain for same-sex relationships, and gladly joining the long queue of ostriches burying their heads to the reality that same-sex relationships do exist.

In the heat of the debate, objectivity flew out the window and we became part of the stories we were reporting, forgetting that in media ethics, we do not take sides: not even if we are reporting perceived good versus perceived evil.

Perhaps time has come to revise the little blue book that is the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya to include how to cover same-sex relationships stories?

Perhaps we ought to borrow a leaf from the UK’s National Union of Journalists guidelines reporting same-sex relationships stories which stress that “as with all members of society, the media should treat LGBTQ people with fairness, integrity and respect.”

That “journalists should not produce material which is likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

That “while ever mindful of the need to facilitate free and open public debate, avoid publishing letters, online comments or phone-in contributions that contain gratuitously offensive and possibly illegal statements and attitudes concerning LGBTQ people.”

That the same-sex relationships debate “…is not an issue of political correctness.”

That in reporting the same-sex relationships debate, we should avoid certain terms such as “homosexual relationship” and “homosexual couple” for the same reason that we do not report that Mr and Mrs X are a heterosexual couple.

That in reporting same-sex relationships story, we must avoid “… political shorthand such as “gay agenda”, “homosexual agenda”, or even “LGBTQ agenda” because they can perpetuate conspiracy theories.

It is not just the British NUJ that has guidelines on reporting same-sex relationship stories.

Australia’s Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance also has similar guidelines that stress on “respectful coverage of LGBTQIA+ people and the issues they face,” warning that disrespectful media reporting fuel prejudice, trauma, and discrimination.

In several known cases, disrespected, biased reporting can lead to death – a number of persons in same-sex relationships have been raped, strangled, and brutally killed by bigots that feed on anti-same-sex reporting.

Did we listen to these voices of reason in our coverage of the same-sex relationship debate?

No, we did not.

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