`Sun' apologises for picture abuse

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The Independent Online
THE SUN newspaper yesterday issued an unprecedented apology for blacking out a disabled woman from a photograph before publishing it on its pages.

The Independent revealed yesterday how the Sun doctored a Reuters photograph of the England cricket team to blot out Shelley Anne Emery, a wheelchair user. The newspaper immediately issued a statement saying it had tightened up its technical procedures to ensure that there is no repeat of the incident.

Acknowledging its embarrassment, today the paper is publishing the original picture, showing Mrs Emery celebrating England's victory over South Africa at Headingley. The England and Wales Cricket Board expressed its dismay at the Sun's behaviour and sent Mrs Emery and her husband, Stephen, tickets for tomorrow's one-day tournament between England, Sri Lanka and South Africa at Lord's.

The Sun's embarrassment delighted rival tabloids but also highlighted how other newspapers have been guilty of doctoring photographs of ordinary people, and causing offence.

In 1996 the Mirror was severely criticised by the Press Complaints Commission for superimposing a smile on a two-year-old girl with partial facial paralysis. Jemma Scott was born with a rare condition called Moebius Syndrome, and had never been able to smile.

In National Smile Week the paper had described Jemma's condition, which meant that she was unable to blink, move her eyes from side to side or use her mouth muscles. Her father, Terry, had told the paper that "My dream is to see her smile."

The Mirror's response to Mr Scott's dream was to publish two versions of Jemma's face: one as she really was, the other altered by computer to produce a smile. The PCC said Mr Scott and his wife "were deeply hurt at the alteration of their daughter's features and felt the newspaper had defaced a photograph of a loving child who, through no fault of her own, could not smile openly like other children". The Mirror's editor, Piers Morgan, apologised to the Scotts and was forced to publish the PCC adjudication in the newspaper.

The Mirror was also at the centre of controversy over the doctoring of photographs of the Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed, to make it appear that they were kissing when aboard Mr Fayed's yacht last year.

After this the PCC decided to make its ethical code more explicit on the subject of altered photographs, and it is now clear that such distortions contravene industry rules.