When Nelson Mandela’s death was announced Thursday night, in the rush to publish something about him several Italian newspapers made the unfortunate mistake of describing him as “the father of apartheid,” reports Il Post. Il Giornale, owned by the Berlusconi family, Il Messaggero and Il Mattino all featured stories with similar headlines.
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"South Africa, the father of apartheid Nelson Mandela dies at 95-years-old." Screen grab via Il Post.
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"Nelson Mandela, 95-years-old, father of apartheid." Screen grab via Il Post.
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The URL highligted in yellow shows that the Rome daily Il Messagero initially not only called him "father of Apartheid" but had his age wrong. Screen grab via Il Post.
When Frederik Willem (F. W.) de Klerk became president of South Africa in 1990, he began negotiations to end the regime and allowed for the release of the African National Congress (ANC) leader, Mandela, who had long campaigned for the rights of colored South Africans. Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly in 1993 with de Klerk for overcoming the segregational system.
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Mandela with de Klerk in Davos, 1992. Photo by World Economic Forum via CC.
A retraction and apology was soon published in Il Giornale: “We apologize to our readers for the error on the headline atop the article published this evening on the death of Nelson Mandela. A serious error, now erased from this page, in which we remember the undeniable role that the first black President of South Africa played against apartheid.”
Screen grab of Il Giornale via Worldcrunch.
In attributing to Mandela what he spent his life, 27 years of it imprisoned, fighting against, backlash sparked on social media.
"According to #IlGiornale #Mandela was the father of apartheid. Yeah, this paper is useless but are they really calling themselves journalists?"
— Flavia (@FlvRusso) December 6, 2013
"Differing headlines online yesterday on the death of Nelson #Mandela: "the father of apartheid is gone!" An enlightenment on Italian journalism."
— Alfredo Macchi (@MacchiAlfredo) December 6, 2013
3 national newspapers in Italy describe the late Mandela as "il Padre dell'Apartheid", "The Father of Apartheid". Italy has lost it.
— Robin Boast (@robinboast) December 6, 2013
"Il Messaggero, Il Giornale, etc, call him father of apartheid and Repubblica choses an incomprehensible photo of him with Stevie Wonder."
Il Messaggero, Il Giornale ecc. che lo chiamano padre dell'apartheid e Repubblica che sceglie un'incomprensibile foto con Stevie Wonder.
— martino/pietropoli (@mpietropoli) December 6, 2013
"You'll be able to tell your granchildren about the night that the father of apartheid said: "I have a Dream."
Ai vostri nipotini potrete raccontare di quella notte in cui il padre dell'apartheid disse: "I Have a Dream".
— luca castelli (@cabal) December 5, 2013