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Covering LGBTQI+ issues can bring threats and retaliation for journalists & sources

A participant in a march marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) in Jakarta, Indonesia, 17 May 2018
A participant in a march marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) in Jakarta, Indonesia, 17 May 2018

NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The following is an except of a 17 May 2018 CPJ Blog post by Jacquelyn Iyamah, CPJ Gender and Media Freedom Fellow.

To mark the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, CPJ spoke with journalists and news outlets based in Argentina, Iran, Indonesia, the U.S., Uganda, and Russia, about the challenges they face reporting on LGBTQ issues.


Country: Argentina

Background:

Agencia Presentes, an organization founded in 2016 by human rights journalists Ana Fornaro and María Eugenia Ludueña, reports on violence against LGBTQI communities in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Honduras. Fornaro told CPJ that its staff are regularly threatened or harassed online when they publish articles or share them on social media. Fornaro said that Agencias Presentes and the people it reports on also receive threats when the organization investigates allegations of police violence against transgender individuals. Fornaro said the threats have not made Agencias Presentes afraid to cover these issues, but because of the danger to the people they report on, there are several stories the outlet has been unable to run.

What is it like covering LGBTQ issues in Argentina?

Fornaro: Mostly the threats are on social media, with hate speech. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - we receive lots of hate comments from trolls. This is a way to put pressure on our job. The threats range from, "You people are sick" to "I hope you die." We erase the comments and block the trolls.

In Argentina, the police criminalize trans people and lesbians with arbitrary detentions on the streets. We extensively cover these types of cases. We receive indirect "warnings" while doing research on a hate crime, prostitution, and the relationship with the police.

The Impact:

Fornaro: We always have to be very careful on how visible we make the victims. Every time a LGBT individual--often a trans person--denounces the police, they risk their lives.


Country: Iran

Background:

For the past five years, an Iranian filmmaker has been working on a documentary about a transgender individual. Producing such a documentary in Tehran carries risk for the journalist as well as the people featured in their work. The filmmaker, who asked CPJ to withhold their identity for fear of retaliation from authorities, said that Iran's government is aware of the country's LGBTQ community, but does not want to draw attention to it. Journalists covering sensitive issues in Iran face the risk of arbitrary detention, and the filmmaker told CPJ they believe that authorities keep tabs on them.

What is it like covering LGBTQ issues in Iran?

Filmmaker: The story that I initially began to do documented the LGBTQ scene in Tehran, but eventually the story changed. It became about a transgender woman who fled Iran and now lives as a refugee in Canada.

Around the same that I was working on this story, I applied for a press pass for Iran, and I was never given the press pass. No reason given, for the longest time they delayed it, and then at a certain point they told me there was a lot of sensitivity around my work.

Read the full report on CPJ's site.

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