The Guardian newspaper issued a correction last week by removing the stock image of a Muslim woman in an article about fraudulent covid-related grants for businesses.

Tell MAMA was alerted to the issue on January 5, challenging the image choice in several tweets, including quoting the initial tweet, “How is a stock image of a Muslim woman in a headscarf relevant to this story?”.

We followed up this tweet by locating the origins of the stock image, detailing how it was taken in Newcastle in 2021, captioned, “A lady walk past a closed down empty shop on May 12, 2021 in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, England”.

Tell MAMA tweeted, “Here’s the origins of the photo which has nothing to do with the story. Please consider changing.”

On January 6, the change occurred with the clarification making clear, “This article was amended on 6 January 2022 to replace the main image with a more suitable picture.”

Tell MAMA also flagged a tweet that blamed immigrants for fraud, written in reply to the original Guardian tweet.

The use of the stock image occurred previously but in non-related covid coverage.

In 2021, the New York Post used this stock image in a covid-related story about virus levels across the UK.

In broad terms, the risk of stigmatisation through stock imagery, especially during a pandemic, has long been the subject of criticism and concern, mainly when directed towards East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) and Asian American and Pacific Island (AAPI) communities in North America. Academics drew similar concerns during the SARs epidemic in the early 2000s whilst tracing the historical roots of such racialised stigma and prejudice. Further scholarly work details how attaching a stigma to cultural identities invokes assumptions of inferiority. Thus, it risks curtailing inclusion and producing economic and interpersonal forms of discrimination.

Tell MAMA continues to challenge and document how such stock images of Muslim and ESEA communities appeared throughout coronavirus coverage during the pandemic – themes that will feature in more in-depth research.

In March last year, we detailed how the BBC continued to recycle the stock image of a Muslim woman.

We thank The Guardian for replacing the image and hope the necessary steps follow editorially to avoid this occurring again.

The Guardian removes image of Muslim woman from Covid-19 story about business fraud