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Last Updated: Monday, 6 February 2006, 11:43 GMT
Row over Cameroon 'gay' witchhunt
Screen grab from anti-gay article in July 2004
This is not the first such campaign in Cameroon
Cameroon's political and business elites have been rocked by a campaign by tabloid newspapers to "out" top personalities they say are homosexual.

The newspaper editors say they are exposing people who engage in "deviant behaviour". Some 50 people have been named and the papers have sold out.

Homosexual acts are banned in Cameroon, with up to five years in jail.

But the campaign has been condemned by the state communication council for invading people's private lives.

The council also challenged anyone who felt they had been libelled to take legal action. So far, none of those named has gone to the courts.

Like much of Africa, Cameroon is a conservative society, where homosexuality is frowned upon.

We could not remain silent. We had to ring the alarm bell
Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga
L'Anecdote newspaper
But the BBC's Randy Joe Saah in Yaounde says it is an open secret that homosexuality is alive in the country and that the law banning homosexual acts is rarely used.

The campaign has sparked a national debate about gay rights and privacy.

Communications Minister Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, who is one of those named, has threatened legal action and told Cameroon's media they risked breaking up families, reports Reuters news agency.

"Whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, sexual intercourse takes place in an intimate environment between two persons," he told media chiefs last month.

'Death threats'

The newspapers say they are waiting to defend themselves - and have proof of their allegations.

The publisher of the weekly L'Anecdote, Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga, defended headlines such as "Gays are among us" and promised more revelations to come.

"We could not remain silent. We had to ring the alarm bell. We don't regret it and we have to do it again... in spite of numerous death threats me and my journalists have had," he told Reuters.

One newspaper had to have two extra print runs and some vendors resorted to selling photocopies to satisfy demand.

The newspapers also carried a vehement denunciation of homosexuality by Cameroon's Roman Catholic bishop Victor Tonye Bakot who criticised European countries for giving it legitimacy.

Last year, lobby group Human Rights Watch condemned the practice of forced anal examinations of those arrested on charges of having gay sex.


SEE ALSO:
Zanzibar imams halt gay wedding
13 May 05 |  Africa
Fine for Ugandan radio gay show
03 Oct 04 |  Africa
Country profile: Cameroon
04 Feb 06 |  Country profiles


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