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News outlets criticised for mislabelling photos of black MPs

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Three leading British media outlets have been left embarrassed and facing accusations of racism after they mislabelled a series of photos of black female Labour MPs.

In a chaotic series of events, the BBC was initially forced to apologise after mislabelling the Labour MP Marsha de Cordova as Labour frontbencher Dawn Butler on its Parliament channel.

Then, in an article about the BBC’s mistake, the Evening Standard’s online edition published a picture of a third black female Labour MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, mistakenly claiming it was De Cordova.

The Evening Standard blamed a wrongly captioned photo provided by Getty Images, the main supplier of editorial images to British news outlets.

On Monday, De Cordova, the MP for Battersea, was speaking at a debate in the Commons about the agriculture bill. But the strap-line identified her as Butler, the MP for Brent Central and one of the candidates for the Labour deputy leadership.

Butler criticised the public broadcaster in a tweet, in which she stated that diversity in the workplace would help to avoid such mistakes.The BBC “sincerely apologised” for the mistake in a statement. “Sometimes we incorrectly identify MPs at the moment when they stand to speak. This error was immediately corrected on screen.”

Two weeks ago the broadcaster was forced to apologise after footage of LeBron James was mistakenly included in its coverage of the death of his fellow basketball star Kobe Bryant.

The Evening Standard apologised on Tuesday for using a photo of a different black female MP while reporting on the BBC’s mistake. The paper said: “It had been wrongly captioned by one of our picture suppliers, Getty Images. We have apologised to both Marsha de Cordova and Bell Ribeiro-Addy this morning.”

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In response to the statement by the Evening Standard, the Labour MP David Lammy said: “This cannot go on. Black people are not all the same. We need more diversity in our newsrooms.”

This is not the first time that Getty Images, which is used as a reliable source by British news outlets, has made such a mistake. In 2018 it supplied an image to the i newspaper which it claimed showed the black Labour MP Kate Osamor, when in reality it showed her colleague Fiona Onasanya.

The wrongly labelled Getty Image originated at an event for Rebecca Long-Bailey’s Labour leadership campaign. On Tuesday, Getty issued a “caption correction” to its clients, saying: “We apologise for any inconvenience.”

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