Gay Europe minister Chris Bryant attacks BBC’s ‘ludicrous mistake’ on gay execution debate

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Minister for Europe Chris Bryant has attacked the BBC for holding a debate on whether gays should be executed.

Bryant, who is gay, told he would be writing to the BBC’s World Service director Peter Horrocks to demand an explanation, adding that the online debate could lead to further homophobic hatred.

The Have Your Say question, posted on Tuesday evening, read: “Should homosexuals face execution?”.

A number of readers agreed that the proposed bill in Uganda, which would impose the death penalty on gays, would be a good idea.

Bryant said: “I will be writing to Peter Horrocks to ask him to explain how the BBC could have made such as ludicrous mistake.

“I will be asking him in the strongest terms to explain.”

He said he was “flabbergasted” to hear of the debate question on the taxpayer-funded broadcaster’s website, adding: “How insensitive could the BBC possibly be? If they want to stoke homophobic hatred, this would be the right way.”

He added that the British foreign ministry campaigns against the death penalty around the world, including in Uganda.

Horrocks wrote a short apology for the debate on the BBC’s World Service editors’ blog today. He apologised for the offence caused but reiterated previous BBC statements that the question was designed to provoke discussion of an important topic.

News of the debate quickly spread around Twitter yesterday afternoon, with readers asking whether the BBC would allow topics such as the extermination of Jews in World War II.

On Wednesday afternoon, the BBC changed the question to ‘Should Uganda debate gay execution?’ after lobbying from BBC Pride, the state broadcaster’s LGBT society.

The debate was raised by parliament by Labour MP Eric Joyce, while Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone called on the BBC to apologise.

The National Union of Journalists has also attacked the BBC.

At an emergency meeting of the World Service news and current affairs chapel of the union late yesterday, it issued a statement saying the post was “overly sensationalist” and could encourage homophobia.