DSTV, the South African based African pay TV satellite network, has had to explain why it has been placing advertising with an anti-gay Ugandan publication.
Earlier this month, Robert Collins, a member of the gay community in Johannesburg, noticed a DSTV ad on the website of the notoriously homophobic Red Pepper Ugandan tabloid.
The publication has come under fire for stirring anti-gay sentiment by “outing” people it claims are gay and lesbian; in effect exposing them to the very real risk of prosecution, discrimination and even physical violence.
Red Pepper’s sensationalist “exposes” have led to reported attacks on members of the country’s gay and lesbian community. After President Museveni signed the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act last month, the tabloid resumed its campaign against gay and lesbian Ugandans.
Collins wrote to DSTV asking “why you are advertising in a tabloid that explicitly promotes hatred and discrimination against homosexuality?”
He added: “I am a gay man, and find this extremely offensive for a well known South African company to advertise here!”
Collins was taken aback by the response he received, which made matters even worse. “Kindly note that we are not for nor against homosexual discrimination. We receive direct feed from our channel suppliers and we have no editorial rights,” read the e-mail.
Mambaonline contacted MultiChoice, the company that offers the DSTV service, for an explanation as to how a South African-owned company could have such an inappropriate position with regard to human rights.
In an official statement, the company said that it would like to “sincerely apologise to Mr Collins for the responses he received from our customer care team.”
MultiChoice explained that “the nature of the query was outside the scope” of the person who responded and should’ve been escalated to the relevant teams to address. “We have addressed this matter internally,” it added.
The company went on state that, “MultiChoice is committed to the principles of equality as ingrained in our constitution – we have the necessary corporate and employment policies in place to ensure a fair and equal workplace for all our employees.”
It noted that “each one of our operations across the African continent are joint ventures with local shareholders, and are run by local employees.”
Significantly, in a small victory for LGBT rights, MultiChoice said that “we have taken the matter up with the Ugandan team and the advert is no longer on the website in question.”
The incident reflects not only poor training on the part of DSTV staff, but also some of the difficulties facing South African companies that do business in African countries with discriminatory human rights policies or laws.
Earlier this month, the French-based Orange telecoms multinational, which also advertised on the Red Pepper website, agreed to drop its campaigns with the hate publication following the launch of an international petition.