The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill of October 2009 caused an international outcry and sparked intense debate in the local and international media. Particularly contentious was its proposal to impose the death penalty for acts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’. Through a quantitative content analysis of 176 items from two main daily newspapers, the government-owned New Vision and the privately-owned Daily Monitor, over the period October 2009-June 2010, combined with qualitative interviews with human rights defenders in Uganda, this study explores attempts made by local human rights advocates to influence the media’s coverage of the Bill and the extent to which these attempts were successful. The study finds that while there are significant differences between the frequency of reporting on the Bill in the two newspapers, both papers devoted little editorial space to the public health and human rights concerns put forward by local human rights organizations. Despite Uganda’s recent and often lauded history of openly addressing HIV/AIDS, human right organizations’ attempts to highlight the Bill’s potentially adverse effects on the country’s ability to tackle the epidemic effectively were only partially successful and, interestingly, awarded much less attention than the potential human rights implications of the proposed change in legislation.
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