BBC Sharply Criticized after Asking Readers ‘Should Homosexuals Face Execution?’

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) came under fire yesterday after a question was posted to the news giant’s website asking readers to “debate” the topic, “Should homosexuals face execution?” The question references proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the execution of gay people who are so-called “repeat offenders.” But British lawmakers are sternly speaking out against the “debate topic,” The Associated Press reported on Wednesday. “We should be looking at what is going on in Uganda with abhorrence,” lawmaker Eric Joyce of the ruling Labour Party told The AP. “We should be condemning it, and the BBC should be condemning it. ... Instead it seems to have thought it appropriate to come up with something that suggests it’s a subject for discussion.” The BBC, however, defended its query on Wednesday: “We agree that it is a stark and challenging question, but think that it accurately focuses on and illustrates the real issue at stake,” said the BBC’s World Service Africa program editor, David Stead. The Associated Press also noted that the title of the online topic was changed to read, “Should Uganda Debate Gay Execution?” but the article still goes on to ask readers the more offensive question, “Should homosexuals face execution?” Early Thursday afternoon, the BBC published another statement further clarifying their line of reasoning:
The original headline on our website was, in hindsight, too stark. We apologise for any offence it caused. But it's important that this does not detract from what is a crucial debate for Africans and the international community.
The programme was a legitimate and responsible attempt to support a challenging discussion about proposed legislation that advocates the death penalty for those who undertake certain homosexual activities in Uganda - an important issue where the BBC can provide a platform for debate that otherwise would not exist across the continent and beyond.
GLAAD was alerted to the BBC’s so-called “online debate” late Wednesday and quickly contacted a BBC news editor and asked that the question be removed from the BBC website. That editor has yet to respond to our request. GLAAD urges you to contact the BBC and tell the broadcaster that defending the lives of gay people is not a matter of debate, but instead a matter of moral obligation. Take action and sign a petition that will be sent to BBC executives here. GLAAD will continue to insist that the BBC remove this deeply offensive question from its website. Updates can be found on as they become available.