Men's magazine Zoo Weekly will print an apology for its controversial 'Australia's Hottest Asylum Seeker' competition in its upcoming edition after a public outcry.
A petition for an apology launched by refugee worker Matt Darvas last week on activist website Change.org has garnered more than 6,500 signatures and widespread media coverage.
Zoo Weekly asked its readers: “Are you a refugee not even the immigration minister could refuse? Then we want to see you! We’re looking for Oz’s hottest asylum seeker, so if you’ve swapped persecution for sexiness, we want to shoot you (with a camera — relax!) Send your pics and a short story about your tragic past.”
The competition was launched in a double-page spread in the magazine's 16 July edition titled 'Sexiest Boat People' which featured paparazzi photos of bikini-clad celebrities on yachts.
“I live amongst and count as close friends a number of female refugees from several war-torn nations in East Africa,” Darvas wrote in his petition. “They still suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including frequent nightmares, flashbacks, depression and other associated health problems.
"To trivialise and exploit these incredibly traumatic experiences is utterly appalling. That’s why I’m calling on [Zoo Weekly's publisher] ACP Magazines to demand Zoo issue an apology and immediately scrap this disgusting competition."
The edition also featured Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young's head photo-shopped onto the body of a lingerie-clad underwear model. The magazine claimed she had turned down their offer to house asylum seekers in the publication's offices if she posed for a “tasteful” photoshoot in her underwear.
Zoo Weekly's editor Tim Keen has agreed to print a retraction of the competition and an apology in the next edition of the magazine and has already posted an apology on the title's website.
“Zoo Weekly regrets any offence caused to any of our readers, and to any asylum seeker or refugee and their families and supporters, by the article 'Sexiest Boat People' on pages 32 and 33 of the July 16th 2012 issue of Zoo Weekly, which included the competition 'Are you Australia’s Hottest Asylum Seeker?',” said Zoo Weekly on its website. “We apologise for being insensitive towards asylum seekers and refugees, and the traumatic experiences they have experienced. Our apologies are extended to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.”
A Zoo Weekly spokesperson told AdNews the same apology will appear on the contents page of the 30 July edition. The apology could not appear in the 23 July edition as it had already gone to print when the petition began.