Telegraaf apologises for Mandela Zwarte Piet ‘joke’

The Telegraaf newspaper has apologised for a website article with a ‘distasteful link’ between the death of Nelson Mandela and the Sinterklaas celebrations.

The article, a compilation of reactions to Mandela’s death, began with the text: ‘There have been reactions abroad and in the Netherlands to the death of Nelson Mandela, who died, of all times, on Sinterklaas evening (with Zwarte Piet).’

‘This should never have happened. Our apologies,’ the paper’s editor-in-chief said in a statement. The controversial item was on the website for around 30 minutes before it was removed.

The incident highlights the fact that it is never appropriate to make jokes about sad events while involved in journalistic work, the statement said. Even if they are never intended for publication, there is a risk this might happen, the statement continued.

The character of Zwarte Piet, played by a white person in black-face make-up, has come in for intense criticism this year because of its racist connotations and links with slavery.

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