The hack of Uganda’s government websites: Anonymous could do better

This article was originally written by Melanie Nathan for her O-blog-dee-o-blog-da blog.


Uganda’s Government websites were hacked and defaced earlier this month. The hacksters asserted that their actions were to protest the Ugandan Government persecution of the LGBTI community of Uganda where being gay is considered criminal and where legislation is pending Uganda’s parliament that would impose harsh prison penalties on gay people, including the death sentence for so called “aggravated homosexuality.”


Anonymous defaced the websites of the President and the Government of Uganda, depicting feigned posts from Government including apologies by the Ugandan government to the Ugandan LGBT community for repeated persecution of gays and lesbians in Uganda.


A few international activists who write extensively about  LGBT Uganda, including Box Turtle Bulletin‘s Jim Burroway, Melanie Nathan and Val Kalende all noted that the actions of Anonymous may have caused more harm than good to the Ugandan LGBT Community.


The Advocate wrote:

“Melanie Nathan, the blogger who wrote about the photos, was critical of Anonymous’s use of the image because she said it could put in danger an activist who it featured and who wasn’t involved in the hacking. Nathan had praised Pride participants in her article on The Advocate‘s website for bravely taking part in the events in a country that criminalizes gay sex and that has proposed the infamous “kill the gays” legislation, which has so far languished in Parliament.”


Many photographs have circulated the internet putting the gay community at risk. Some of those photos were specifically approved by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) – and I was the one who gained the permission to publish those in the Advocate. However we provided strictest copyright wording to ensure those photos would not be used inappropriately.


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. We would have directed them to a less identifying more benign picture and perhaps given permission, depending on the use. Instead they have associated one photo and one face with the publication of the hack.


How could anonymous be so insensitive to the real persecution of the activists on the ground? How are they going to help that man who may now be a target of the Ugandan Government.


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.


Also SMUG, one of the most active LGBT leadership groups in Uganda came out with a very strong statement, vehemently condemning the cyber attacks:


“No member in our office, network, or in the Ugandan LGBTI community was consulted or involved in this action by “Anonymous” in any way. The hacking of government websites and the corresponding statements by Anonymous do not reflect the views of SMUG and its partners, allies and/or friends. As Ugandans ourselves, we stand with our community and equally share in the burden of this illegal and counterproductive action.


Sexual Minorities Uganda  (SMUG) does not condone the activities of this group and shares in the dismay, frustration and anger that our fellow citizens have experienced. We are prepared to work with the Ugandan government to ensure that those responsible for this action are found and held accountable.” The full statement can be seen here.


Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin writes:


“Anonymous’s actions show an appalling disregard for the efforts of Ugandan LGBT leaders and a gob-smacking huberis that they, from the comfort of their bedrooms and coffee shops, know better than the Ugandan LGBT people on the ground. Meanwhile, those very same Ugandans are on Facebook bracing themselves for what may come.”


Ugandan gay activist comments:


“But why hack gov’t sites anyway? How different is that from the West cutting all aid to UG? Anonymous could do better. We need those sites to keep track of what those guys are doing. Many Ugandans need those sites. Shame. As for the pic, shame!!!!”


Melanie Nathan for Oblogdeeoblogda.me

Melanie Nathan is a human rights advocate who writes and speaks about ending prejudice and discrimination against sexuality minorities. In her advocacy work she focus primarily on LGBT issues in United States of America and Africa.