Journalists Must Be Culturally Aware

Photo Credits to BBC

Posted by Becca Mataloni

A few days ago, I read an article about a Ugandan newspaper publishing pictures of the top 100 Homosexuals in Uganda. The end said, “Hang them.”

The International Press Institute has ordered the two-month-old newspaper, the Rolling Stone, (not related to the U.S. magazine) to stop publishing the names because it violates Uganda’s privacy policy and promotes violence.

The IPI is mostly upset because newspapers should not publish articles that expose private information on individuals and supports violence against them.  The media tells the news, and should not be written with opinion.  The words “hang them” clearly shows the opinion of the editor, Giles Muhame.

When I first read the article, I completely agreed with the IPI because so many journalists fight for press freedom, and to see the Ugandan newspaper go against the ethics we all learn makes all journalists look bad.

However, homosexuality is illegal in Uganda.  It is part of its culture.  So, think about the United States publishing a sex offender list.  Is that ethically wrong?  Many of us would say no, because they pose as a threat to children.  But that is exactly what Muhame is saying to the people of Uganda. He wants the authorities to investigate children being recruited to homosexuality.  To him, homosexuality is a threat to children.

Because I was brought up in a culture where homosexuality is legal, it is hard to understand why someone would publish something like that.  But when I think about their culture, is it actually bad?

As journalists, we must realize that values and morals vary from culture to culture.  It is our duty to know about the country and culture we write about because what might be acceptable for America may not be in that country.

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4 responses to “Journalists Must Be Culturally Aware

  1. While homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, I would not say it is necessarily a part of their culture. It’s more a part of their politics. When I was in Uganda this summer, homosexuality was frowned upon, but the students that I traveled with did not hate people for being homosexual. They didn’t think that homosexuals should die, either. In fact, Ellen Degeneres is quite popular in Uganda.

    Therefore, I think it is completely unethical for a newspaper to print an article like that because it is a clear statement of opinion on a political issue and not just an accepted way of life. Besides, who is to say that the information is accurate?

    I also think it would be completely unethical to publish a sex offender list, too, but that goes into more of the reality of the legal system here and isn’t as related to the Ugandan article.

  2. Megan Bannister

    Although I am a firm believer in freedom of the press and the ability of newspapers to publish controversial material, from what I’ve read about this story it seems that the Rolling Stone was simply publishing personal details and images of individuals as part of its own agenda. While a mindset that does not agree with homosexuality may not be the general norm of the Ugandan populous, the fact that homosexuality is a punishable offense in Uganda makes me question the ethical choices of Giles Muhame.

    In regards to the sex offender comment, most sex offenders are required to register with the state and the information is made public by the sex offender registry of individual states. Does this make it more ethical, since the information can be obtained if desired? I’m not sure how I feel about it but I believe it’s irrelevant unless the information is pertinent to the story.

  3. trevormickelson

    Even though publishing a list of registered sex offenders would be legal, I still think it is unethical. I can only imagine the public outcry that would inevitably be heard if such a list was published for the sole purpose of informing people of who the sex offenders are. I have no problem with recognizing someone as a sex offender in a story but a story dedicated to outing sex offenders is unethical in my mind. If people want to know who registered sex offenders are that information is available to them. What makes matters worse in my opinion is that the author ended the article with the phrase “hang them.” This indicates that the author would support one of his readers taking action against a homosexual, which in my mind should never find its way into a news article.

  4. I agree with all of you in saying that it is completely unethical to publish something like this. If the personal information is not public knowledge, such as this instance, then I don’t believe it should be published.

    Kristin, I did not mean to sound as though all Ugandans believe homosexuals should die. That was merely the case for the editor of the Rolling Stone.

    I brought up the sex offender list to relate it to something in the United States t. In my hometown, a few times each year they print the names of the sex offenders in the area and include their address. I appreciate knowing, but at the same time printing that personal information can affect the safety of the sex offenders.

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