PRETORIA: 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 were buzzing with condemnation of an apparent sneaked photo of the president's face that had been posted online.
The photo was later exposed as a hoax, a doctored image that was taken of Mandela in July 1991 when he was closing his eyes at an ANC party congress in Durban.
The government welcomed social media users' widespread condemnation of the purported image.
"If this content exists, government calls on people not to view it and to delete it from their timelines."
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."