Alleged Mandela Deathbed Photo Surfaces On Social Media, Sparks Anger

People hold portraits of Nelson Mandela as South Africans stand in line to pay their respect to South African former presiden
People hold portraits of Nelson Mandela as South Africans stand in line to pay their respect to South African former president Nelson Mandela laying in state at the Union Buildings on December 12, 2013 in Pretoria. South Africans will get a second chance Thursday to pay their last respects to Nelson Mandela, a day after his distraught widow joined thousands of mourners at his open coffin. Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, died in Johannesburg on December 5 at age 95. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

The South African government said Thursday it would not release photographs of Nelson Mandela lying in state, and urged people to shun a purported image of the dead president posted on the Internet.

While tens of thousands queued to file past the democracy icon's open coffin in Pretoria, social media was buzzing with condemnation of an apparent sneaked photo of the president's face that had been posted online.

"Government is aware of social media activity on the existence or otherwise of a picture of President Mandela lying in state," said an official statement.

It welcomed social media users' widespread condemnation of the act.

"If this content exists, government calls on people not to view it and to delete it from their timelines."

Neither the authenticity nor the origin of the picture could be verified.

It was a grainy, green-tinted close-up of a face resembling Mandela's image, its eyes screwed tightly shut.

Mandela's family had expressly wished that no photographs of the body be released, and people queuing to view the open-top casket were not allowed to bring cameras and were requested to turn off their mobile phones.

"With regard to mourners filing past the casket, government repeats the caution that no photography is allowed," Thursday's statement said.

Twitter users largely denounced the spread of the image, calling it "shameful" and "totally disrespectful."

Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.



Mandela Memorial Service