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BBC Slammed For Debating Ugandan Bill To Kill Gays

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LONDON — The British Broadcasting Corp. suffered criticism from lawmakers Wednesday for inviting debate on whether homosexuals should face execution in Uganda.

The broadcaster launched an on-line debate over a proposed Ugandan law that would punish some homosexual acts by life imprisonment or death. Legislation being considered in the African country would impose the death penalty on some gay Ugandans, and their family and friends could face up to seven years in jail if they fail to report their homosexuality to authorities.

BBC's "Africa Have Your Say" Web site asked for people's views on whether Uganda has gone too far and whether there should be any laws against gays.

The page's title was originally "Should homosexuals face execution?" but was later changed to "Should Uganda debate gay execution?" Several British politicians said the taxpayer-funded broadcaster should not treat the execution of gays as a legitimate topic for discussion.

"We should be looking at what is going on in Uganda with abhorrence," said lawmaker Eric Joyce of the ruling Labour Party. "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."

Lynne Featherstone, a lawmaker from the opposition Liberal Democrats, said she has written to BBC executives seeking an apology and an end to the Web discussion.

"Suggesting that the state-sponsored murder of gay people is OK as a legitimate topic for debate is deeply offensive," she said.

The forum attracted more than 600 comments and triggered a lively Twitter discussion.

The BBC's World Service Africa program editor, David Stead, defended the debate. In a blog posted on the BBC Web site, he said editors had "thought long and hard about using this question" and sought to reflect the diverse views about homosexuality in Africa.

"We agree that it is a stark and challenging question, but think that it accurately focuses on and illustrates the real issue at stake," he said.

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