Gays for Equitable Media (GEM), a newly formed lesbian and gay South African media advocacy group, has issued a statement advising journalists and editors to regard media releases issued by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GLA) with suspicion.

According to GEM, “The GLA, while proclaiming to be the voice of South Africa’s gays and lesbians is a wholly discredited organisation that has no proven support or membership within the gay and lesbian community. Most, if not all, recognised national and regional gay community organisations and media have repeatedly distanced themselves from the GLA and rejected its stance on a vast array of issues”.

The statement add that, “While the GLA has the right to make comment on any matter it sees fit, the media is asked to avoid publishing, without question, its claim of representing gays and lesbians”.

Earlier this year, the GLA’s assertion that it had directed 300 members, some of them HIV positive, to donate blood in protest against the South African National Blood Service’s policy of excluding gay donors was exposed as a hoax.

A number of media outlets were widely criticised for publishing the GLA’s claims without investigation. The Press Ombudsman officially reprimanded the Saturday Star newspaper for contravening the press code in the matter. After a lull in activity, the GLA has recently begun to again send regular communications to the media.

GEM has urged journalists to thoroughly investigate all claims made by the GLA, including its self-declared legitimacy, when considering publishing its statements.

GEM says that it aims to “raise awareness, within the broad South African media, about the representation of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) people”.

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