Over 200 people took part in a protest against the homophobic Sunday Sun column by writer Jon Qwelane in Cape Town on Friday.

The protest took place at lunchtime outside the offices of the Media24 group; the parent company of the Sunday Sun newspaper that published the article on 20 July.

Members of the LGBT community stood across the road from the group’s building in the city centre holding posters and placards with slogans such as “Wild but not animals”, “Queens must say no”, “Fire Qwelane”, “No to hate speech” and “SA is not Zim.”

The demonstration was organised by Cape Town Pride’s Chairperson Ian McMahon, who handed a petition demanding an apology and retraction to Media24’s Newspaper Publishing Division CEO Abraham van Zyl.

The petition further demanded that Media24 sever ties with Qwelane, that its editors be sensitised to issues relating to hate speech and prejudice, particularly homoprejudice, and that Media 24 and all its publications uphold section 2 of the South African Press Code.

Section 2 of the Press Code reads as follows:

2. Discrimination and Hate Speech

2.1 The press should avoid discriminatory references to people’s race, colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or preference, physical or mental disability or illness, or age.

2.2 The press should not refer to a person’s race, colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or preference, physical or mental illness in a prejudicial or pejorative context except where it is strictly relevant to the matter reported or adds significantly to readers’ understanding of that matter.

2.3 The press has the right and indeed the duty to report and comment on all matters of legitimate public interest. This right and duty must, however, be balanced against the obligation not to publish material which amounts to hate speech

Van Zyl in turn issued a statement to McMahan which read: “Media24 acknowledges the protest arising from Jon Qwelane’s column in Sunday Sun dated 20 July 2008 and does not associate itself with the contents of the article.”

It further stated that, “We respect the rights of complainants to express themselves freely in this matter and the recourse they may have.”

The company however said that it “respects the editorial integrity of its titles and therefore it must be the prerogative of the editor of the Sunday Sun to respond to the complaints.”

In a posting on Mambaonline following the protest, McMahon wrote: “Thank you to all of the 220 people who protested in Cape Town today – we will continue this fight!”

A further protest is set to take place in Johannesburg on Tuesday 29 July outside Media24’s offices in that city, at Media Park, 69 Kingsway, Auckland Park, between 2 and 3pm.

“We call on all in JHB to protest – please do not sit idly by and do nothing,” wrote McMahon.

Qwelane’s July 20 article, titled Call me names, but gay is NOT okay…, equated homosexuality with bestiality, praised Robert Mugabe’s oppression of gays and lesbians and encouraged the removal of the sexual-orientation clause from the constitution.

Pics by Jeanine Cameron

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