Spanish daily newspaper El Pais has had to make an embarrassing apology after publishing a photo of a hospitalised man that it said, falsely, was Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
The picture adorned both the front page of Thursday’s early print edition and the homepage of El Pais’s website, accompanied by the caption “The secret of Chavez’s illness”. The false photo remained on the website for around 30 minutes before editors were made aware of their mistake and withdrew it. Copies of the print edition were removed from newspaper stands and replaced with a different edition.
The newspaper says it received the photo from the Gtres Online press agency and points out that it had told its readers that El Pais had not been able to independently verify the date, location and exact content of the image, which shows a man with a tube in his mouth.
Esta es foto ‘exclusiva’ que El País publica mañana de Chávez intubadotwitpic.com/bxq7u9. Misma que se ofreció a varias redacciones— Jacobo G. Garcia (@Jacobogg) January 24, 2013
Chavez, who underwent treatment for cancer in Cuba last month, has not been seen in public for almost two months. Having won re-election in October, his inauguration ceremony – originally scheduled for January 10 – has been postponed indefinitely. Members of Venezuela’s opposition have suggested that Chavez is not fit to run the country while the uncertainty over his physical health persists.
Venezuela’s Information Minister, Ernesto Villegas, said via Twitter that the photo was a screen-shot taken from a video of another man, suffering from an acromegaly.