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We recently published an article concerning alleged homophobia at AOD – Academy of Design – in Sri Lanka. We had been contacted by a firm of lawyers who sent us a raft of what looked like official documents concerning the mistreatment of certain members of staff because of their sexuality. The allegations singled out AOD’s founder, Dr (Hon DCL) Linda Speldewinde, and suggested that she had a personal vendetta against those cited in the documents because of homophobia.

We are now satisfied that we were the victims of an elaborate hoax and that Dr (Hon DCL) Speldewinde and AOD, which is affiliated to the University of Northumbria in the UK, are not only accepting of LGBTQ staff and students, but support LGBTQ people in Sri Lanka by creating an accepting and comfortable environment, delivering opportunities and providing moral support. In fact, we have now seen several testimonials from LGBTQ people in Sri Lanka which leave us in no doubt that the organisation is entirely blameless of any and all of the allegations in our original piece, which has now been removed from this website.

When we were sent what appeared to be signed documents from a firm of lawyers whose credentials seemed legitimate, we had no reason to doubt their veracity. We conducted all the customary checks – both online and over the telephone – and these checks led us to accept the good faith of those concerned. 

We feel pretty stupid to have been taken in by people who quite clearly used OutNewsGlobal’s voice and reputation to further their own agendas and, as editor, I am grateful not only to the various people who drew my attention to this issue, but also to Linda Speldewinde for her grace and kindness in accepting that our error, while grave, was made in good faith. The article also cited the University of Northumbria and the British Council who, in common with AOD and Dr (Hon DCL) Speldewinde, are entirely blameless and without blemish.

This is the first time in 11 years of publication that OutNewsGlobal has had to issue such a retraction. We’re proud of our record of journalistic accuracy and ethics. We are publishing this retraction not as a result of threats of legal action but out of a genuine desire to set the record straight and acknowledge the commitment of AOD and Dr (Hon DCL) Speldewinde to making a real difference to the lives of young people of all sexualities in Sri Lanka.

Find out more about AOD’s work here:

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Rob Harkavy

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