The international hactivist group known as Anonymous has hacked the website of the Prime Minister of Uganda and the database of the Uganda Justice Law and Order Society in support of Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) rights activists.
Anonymous is a loosely associated hacktivist group, which started in 2003.
The group took control of the website of the Prime Minister posting photos of Uganda’s first Gay Pride events, an official recognition of Gay Pride Week and a formal apology to gay people from the Prime Minister. It also revealed encrypted admininstration passwords for Uganda’s Justice Law and Order Society.
Anonymous claims that its operation in Uganda will target Ugandan government sites and communications until the government of Uganda treats all people including LGBT equally.
The first Gay Pride in Uganda was organized on August 4th in Entebbe. It was a series of events held at Entebbe, including a party, a beach parade and a film festival.
On 14 October, 2009, David Bahati, Member of Parliament, introduced an anti-homosexuality bill(known also as “Kill the Gays bill”) which criminalised same-sex relations and stipulated that a person considered as homosexual would receive the death penalty, or life imprisonment. After being met with resistance and criticism,Bahati re-tabled the bill in February this year with some changes.
A message posted on 14 August, 2012, by the group says:
Today’s hack and deface of the Ugandan Prime Minister’s site was the latest in a long list of actions against the government and infrastructure of Uganda for crimes against LGBT people.
We currently have full control of the President of Uganda’s website.
We will not stand by while LGBT Ugandans are victimized, abused and murdered by a ruthless and corrupt government. #TheEliteSociety and #Anonymous will continue to target Ugandan government sites and communications until the government of Uganda treats all people including LGBT equally and with respect, dignity and immediately ends the arrest and harassment of LGBT.
Melanie Nathan, an international LGBTI activist, fears that the action by Anonymous might harm Uganda’s LGBTI activists:
While I support all protests against the anti-gay Ugandan Government, I fear this may cause a backlash to the LGBTI community of activists who so bravely showed their faces at Pride.
In fear that they have failed to consider the particular sensitive issues involved to the Ugandan LGBT gay community.
A Ugandan gay rights activist, Val Kalende, said the following to Melanie:
My concern is the manner in which Anonymous claim to speak on behalf of Uganda LGBT activists with no consultation whatsoever. Has SMUG [Sexual Minorities Uganda] or any other organization asked them hack government websites? Do they understand how their actions could be perceived by Ugandans? I question the motive of Anonymous.They need to be advised. Those well-meaning interventions can cause severe backlash for activists on the ground. Hacking government websites to “help” victims of state-sponsored homophobia? Who does that? I think this extremist violent intervention MUST STOP. I would advise you speak to activists on the ground for their views on this.
Nathan also points out that the photo used by the group on the hacked website is harmful:
The photo used by Anonymous which is now all over the internet is harmful and should not have been used in that fashion. I have tweeted anonymous asking for a remedy. G-d knows how it can be changed at this time.
It seems Anonymous may have used those photos without authority and so in their attempt to help the Ugandan gay community, may in fact be causing more harm to the actual brave activists who put themselves on the line.
One Twitter account of the group defends their action saying:
— #Drama. (@DramaSett3r) August 14, 2012
There are reports that Anonymous has also targeted the websites of RedPepper (Ugandan tabloid), the Uganda Stock Exchange and Uganda Prison Service. In August 2006, Red Pepper published names of alleged Ugandan homosexual men.