Pictures of topless models have returned to page three of The Sun newspaper, just days after feminist campaigners celebrated a victory after reports claimed that they had been axed.
The return of the nude photos, which had been absent for most of the week, was announced on the front page of The Sun with the headline: "We've had a mammary lapse."
Britain's best-selling newspaper ended days of speculation that began after its sister publication The Times reported that it was "quietly dropping" its Page 3 feature. The Sun neither confirmed nor denied the reports at the time.
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Printed under the header "clarifications and corrections", the latest photo features a winking blonde model and mocking comments aimed at media publications that ran the story.
"We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us.
"Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth," it said.
The feminist campaign group No More Page 3 had celebrated a victory earlier in the week, but yesterday vowed to continue fighting.
"So it seems the fight might be back on," the campaign tweeted, adding: "Thanks to The Sun Newspaper for all the publicity they've given the campaign. See you tomorrow xxx."
Labour MP Stella Creasy also joined the debate, tweeting: "So Sun going back to doing #page3? bit like drunken letchy uncle at a wedding who doesn't get the message. Makes everyone uncomfortable."
The controversial photos have been running in the UK's best-selling newspaper since the 1970s and activists have long argued that the images "condition readers to view women as sex objects".
Despite being published in today's paper, many within the industry still believe the feature is on its way out, including the media commentator Steve Hewlett.
"[The Sun] always had a sense of mischief about it and, I might be wrong, but this smells to me very much like the Sun trying to say 'don't write us off yet, we still have a sense of mischief'," he told the BBC's Newsnight programme.
"Is Page 3 on its way back full time? Personally, I very much doubt it."
No more Page 3: The Sun 'drops topless images
The Sun is to stop featuring images of topless women in its newspaper, its sister publication The Times reports.
The news that Britain's best-selling newspaper has "quietly dropped" the segment was welcomed by feminist campaigners. The No More Page 3 group has led a two-year campaign calling for the photos to be axed as they "condition readers to view women as sex objects".
The group's founders described the decision as "truly historic news" and a "huge step" in the fight against media sexism in Britain.
The campaign attracted politicians including Harriett Harman and Caroline Lucas and celebrities including Lauren Laverne and journalist Caitlin Moran. Over 30 universities refused to stock the newspaper until it stopped running the photos.
The Times says it understands that Friday's edition of the paper was the last to feature the photos, however, they will still be shown online. "This comes from high up, from New York," a senior executive within the company told the Guardian.
The Sun has refused to confirm the reports instead saying: "Page 3 of The Sun is where it's always been, between pages 2 and 4, and you can find Lucy from Warwick at Page3.com."
The controversial images have been running in the newspaper since the 1970s and the decision to stop featuring the images "will be greeted as a landmark in the history of Fleet Street," according to The Times.
Speculation that nudity on page three would be phased out had been mounting following comments from News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch, who last year said he thought the topless photos were "old fashioned". Publishers argued that it remained popular with readers despite being cut from the Ireland and weekend editions.
However, some social media users pointed out that the images are simply being replaced by photos of women in lingerie and bikinis, and argued that the campaign did not go far enough in addressing media sexism.
But MP Stella Creasy argued that the victory was still a step in the right direction.
While others suggested alternative images The Sun could publish on the empty page.
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