The Sun newspaper sent out free copies to 20 million homes across England today, but some people refused to take them.
The promotion, to mark the start of the football World Cup, did not include postcodes in Liverpool, where the newspaper has seen a sustained boycott campaign over its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
But the Royal Mail has also reached an agreement with postal workers in the wider region including Merseyside, Cheshire and west Lancashire not to force them to deliver the paper if they object “on a case by case basis”.
The decision came following talks with workers at a post office in Skelmersdale, where six members of staff were at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster, the Liverpool Echo reported.
Since it was announced that The Sun would be distributing free versions of its paper across England today and tomorrow, people from all over the country have taken to social media to express their support for Merseyside protesters.
Some tweeted images of signs put up outside their homes, asking postal workers not to deliver the 26-page “light” version of the paper.
Others went on forums to share Freepost and Customer Services return addresses for The Sun and suggested “adding a bit of slate or brick to increase the weight of the package”.
The No More Page 3 campaign, which demonstrates against The Sun displaying pictures of topless women, organised a Twitter “thunderclap” protest which it said reached nearly two million people.
It also welcomed the fact that the free version did not include a topless Page 3 model, and said: “Dear Sun, if you can do it for the world cup, you can do it forever”.
One Skelmersdale postal worker told the Liverpool Echo that managers had allowed them to vote on whether they would distribute the paper. He said: “They asked us what we felt and for a show of hands.
“Nearly everyone, even people who do not support Liverpool, are saying it shouldn't be delivered on Merseyside . . . we are refusing to deliver them on the grounds that it is The Sun.”
The Royal Mail issued a statement saying: “If there are any personal reasons why a postman or woman would not want to deliver the mailing, we would consider these on an case by case basis working closely with the Communications Workers Union.”
The Sun’s “World Cup Pride edition” is believed to be the biggest promotion of its kind in the UK, though it is not being sent to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. It is running alongside the main, paid-for paper, and largely includes World Cup-related content.
The Sun has been boycotted across Liverpool since it published an article called “The Truth” four days after the Hillsborough disaster, which called 96 people, making allegations about fan behaviour.
It published a full page apology in 2004 and then-executive chairman of News International James Murdoch issued a further apology in 2011.
Speaking to the BBC’s Media Show about the recent Royal Mail boycott, the newspaper’s managing editor Stephen Abell said: “When concerns were raised through Royal Mail, we worked out a way of dealing with it and that really has been our attitude to this.”
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