A weekly editor has apologised after a photoshopped front page image of an MP wearing a Rastafarian hat was branded “racist” on Twitter.
The photo of MP Peter Lilley sporting the colourful headgear accompanied the Hertforshire Mercury’s splash about his calls in Parliament for the legalisation of cannabis.
The Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden was also portrayed wearing a lapel badge featuring a cannabis plant.
But the “light-hearted” picture garnered negative attention after it was tweeted by Daily Mail home affairs editor Martin Beckford, with respondents describing it as “racist” and “offensive”.
Julie Palmer, senior editor for Herts and Essex News, said: ““This was intended as a light-hearted way to engage the public and illustrate a splash which could have appeared quite bland.
“I apologise if it has caused any offence, but that was not my intention.”
In the Rastafari movement, which first became popular in Jamaica in the 1930s, the smoking of cannabis is considered a spiritual act.
Twitter user Lynsae Tulloch, a former reporter at the Inverness Courier, wrote: “Certainly an odd approach to a story. Oh, and perhaps a tad offensive to the Rastafari movement?”
Helen Reynolds added: “If it is a genuine cover it’s got the ‘a bit racist, misjudged and silly’ hat trick.”
However, some saw the funny side. Jake Hamby wrote: “Too bad that’s a (photo)’shop, the Rasta hat looks good on him!”