Liverpool's 23-year boycott of The Sun newspaper

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Liverpool fan wearing Justice for 96 shirt
Image caption,
The Hillsborough Justice Campaign was set up by bereaved families and survivors after the stadium disaster in 1989

It was described by The Sun newspaper as the most terrible mistake in its history.

An article printed in the paper after the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster, under the headline The Truth, prompted a boycott by readers in Liverpool.

As The Sun on Sunday prepares to hit the shelves this weekend Don't Buy The Sun campaigners in Liverpool have said previous apologies were not "heartfelt" and they will continue their campaign.

The paper reported at the time that some fans at the FA Cup semi-final, where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death, pickpocketed the dead and urinated on police.

'Never forgive'

Despite a full page apology for the story in July 2004 and another apology by News International's executive chairman James Murdoch in 2011, the boycott, which campaigners say also extended to the News Of The World, still stands.

Campaign spokesman Peter Hooton said: "The boycott of The Sun is symbolic, and after 23 years it is still as strong as ever on Merseyside.

"People don't feel that there has been any genuine apology. There won't be closure on this until there is justice for the 96.

"Most Liverpool fans will never forgive the paper and will never buy it."

News International was contacted about newspaper sales in Merseyside but declined to comment on regional breakdowns.

Mr Hooton said phone hacking at the News of The World, owned by the same company as The Sun, has brought the actions of tabloid papers "back into the spotlight."

He said: "There are direct parallels between what happened in 1989 and the cover up and what has been happening in the last few years with the News of The World and other papers."


As details of an inquiry into British press ethics were announced last year, singer Billy Bragg released the song Scousers Never Buy The Sun.

This was followed by a charity gig in Liverpool held by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC), which was set up by bereaved families after the disaster.

The Don't Buy The Sun concert saw performances by Mick Jones of the Clash, Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield and The Farm - fronted by Mr Hooton.

It went on to tour the UK to raise awareness of the Justice for the 96 campaign and Don't Buy The Sun campaigns.

Sheila Coleman, of HJC, said: "With the issues exposed in 2011 about phone hacking, powerful and influential people were now saying about parts of the media what Liverpool people had been saying for years.

"People were reading that headline about Hillsborough and believing it. It enabled the disaster to be viewed in the context of drunkenness and ticketless fans when neither were true.

"I'd like to see the day when there is no need for the Hillsborough Justice campaign and the record has been set straight.

"We'd like to think that on the back of the issues exposed in the last year that other decent people in the country wouldn't buy the paper.

"Campaigners boycotted the News of The World and we will be continuing our campaign with The Sun on Sunday."

'Hands and knees'

But publicist Max Clifford said it was time the city moved on.

He said: "It's a bit like we won't speak to Germans any more because we had a war with them a long time ago.

"Obviously in Liverpool The Sun is a bad name but not anywhere else in the country.

"It will be judged by its own commercial values. If people like what they come up with they will buy it, if they don't they won't.

"What happened was a long time ago but no-one who was connected with what happened there is in any way involved with The Sun now.

"Everybody understands that what happened was dreadful and what (then editor) Kelvin McKenzie should've done was gone down on his hands and knees and beg for forgiveness but the man didn't do that.

"The Sun has still been the most successful newspaper in Britain for donkey's years and so was the News Of The World.

"It may be different in Liverpool but the rest of the country don't feel like that."

Ms Coleman said: "We won't end this campaign until the truth comes out.

"The time for apologising came and went. The apology in 2004 was too little too late, The Sun will never recover in this city."

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