Rolling Stone magazine defends Boston bombing suspect cover

US music magazine has received criticism for printing cover of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

US music magazine Rolling Stone has defended its decision to publish an image of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its front cover.

The latest issue of the magazine features a profile of 19-year-old Tsarnaev, which has prompted criticism from readers and, as the BBC reports, has led to several retail outlets in the US refusing to stock the issue. The mayor of Boston also claimed the cover “rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment”, while commenters have noted the similarity between the picture of Tsarnaev and a famous cover of Rolling Stone featuring The Doors‘ frontman Jim Morrison.

In a statement published on Facebook, however, Rolling Stone said they felt it was important for them to cover the story as many of their readers are in the same age demographic as Tsarnaev, and also reinforced that their “hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing”.

They added: “The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone‘s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.”

Readers of Rolling Stone left a series of angry comments on the magazine’s Facebook page after the cover image was revealed, with their most recent status update on the article attracting over 15,000 comments on the social networking site. Molly Dunn Hardy wrote: “Sure, write the article. Explain his story. Tell how a little kid became a killer. But don’t pose the guy like a fucking rockstar and expect applause. We’re not happy, and you lost most of your Boston area subscribers in the last 24 hours. Seriously poor taste, idiots.”

Boston City Council President Stephen Murphy, meanwhile, described the cover as “disgusting”, adding: “Rolling Stone has marketed Tsarnaev as a hero, a misunderstood teen, a product of two incompatible cultures. He is not. He is a coward and a murderer who is appropriately facing the death penalty for his crimes.”

Punk band Dropkick Murphys, who come from Boston and recently donated $300,000 (£197,000) to the victims of the bombings, also took to Twitter to criticise Rolling Stone. They wrote: “Rolling Stone you should be ashamed. How about one of the courageous victims on your cover instead of this loser scum bag!”

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all charges in connection with the bombings, which took place on April 15. Three people – eight-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Marie Campbell and 23-year-old Lingzi Lu – were killed in the attack.