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Pulitzer Center Update October 20, 2014

This Week: Crimean LGBT Discrimination: The Human Toll


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Russia's military annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine has already upended many lives...

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Breakfast after crossing the de facto border. Yegor is messaging friends and family to say that despite queues and bureaucratic harassment by border guards, they made it through. Image by Misha Friedman. Kiev, 2014.


For Crimea's LGBT community, the peninsula's annexation by Russia means a return to the shadows. Now governed by Russian law, which includes a 2012 ban on "homosexual propaganda," gays in Crimea are fair game for public persecution. Sergei Aksyonov, the new head of the regional government, recently warned that if gays attempted to assert their rights, local police and paramilitary forces would "take three minutes to clarify what [sexual] orientation is right."

In a photo essay for Time magazine, Pulitzer Center grantee Misha Friedman documents the plight of one gay couple and their young son as they are forced to flee Crimea for safer precincts in Kiev. Misha explained that he joined the family on their journey because he felt it was emblematic of the transformation that Crimea has undergone since the annexation.

"They just struck me as a normal happy family," says Misha. "They just got caught up in the politics of bigotry."


Uganda is another country notorious for its oppression of gays. A 2013 "Anti-Homosexuality" law imposes a life prison sentence on anyone engaging in homosexual acts, and a three-year jail sentence for failing to report suspected homosexuals. Uganda's high court recently overturned the law, but being gay is still a criminal offense in Uganda.

The most outspoken proponents of anti-gay legislation tend to be religious leaders, but Pulitzer Center grantee Daniella Zalcman, who has been documenting the LGBT struggle in Uganda for three years, tells a Huffington Post interviewer that the religious landscape is actually a bit more nuanced.

"I'm not claiming that there are many Ugandan pastors and priests who support the LGBT rights movement (one bishop who famously stood up for LGBT rights was rapidly excommunicated by the Church of Uganda), but from my interviews it's clear that many of them are much more thoughtful and measured in their discussions of sexual and gender identity than we're led to believe," says Daniella. "With this series, I hope that I've created a more thorough and accurate cross-section of what Ugandans hear in their places of worship every week."


Thirty-five environmental journalists have been killed in the field over the last decade, far more than have died covering the war in Afghanistan during the same period. Cambodian journalist Taing Try, shot dead last week for investigating illegal logging in Kratie Province, is the latest casualty.

"Taing Try joins two other journalists and environmental activists—Hang Serei Oudom and Chut Wutty—who have risked their lives to expose the social and environmental injustices of Cambodia," says Pulitzer Center grantee Kalyanee Mam. "Their deaths remind us of the purpose of their fight—to protect Cambodia's forests and to preserve a vanishing way of life that cannot survive without nature."

Kalyanee, who is from Cambodia and who has also been reporting on environmental issues in her homeland, offers this video tribute to her fallen colleagues.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor