The BBC was practicing for Queen Elizabeth’s death today and during the “category-one obituary rehearsal” one of its reporters, BBC Urdu reporter Ahmen Khawaja wrongly tweeted Queen Elizabeth had died. The BBC is investigating this.
Khawaja “then retracted, saying the Queen was being treated in hospital,” the Guardian reported, and next claimed that it was a prank from someone who used her phone.
The BBC, however, “directly contradicted” that claim, confirming it had been practicing for Queen Elizabeth’s death, the Guardian noted.
The BBC pointed iMediaEthics to its statement:
“During a technical rehearsal for an obituary, tweets were mistakenly sent from the account of a BBC journalist saying that a member of the royal family had been taken ill. The tweets were swiftly deleted and we apologise for any offence.”
Anonymous sources told the Telegraph that Khawaja overheard BBC staff practicing for the Queen’s death and shared the conversation thinking it was real. See below her tweets, some of which have been deleted, via the Telegraph.
What’s a “category-one obituary rehearsal”? This is when the BBC prepares for obituaries of high-profile people. According to the Guardian, “only four people are in the BBC’s ‘category-one’ of public figures, a classification reserved for senior members of the royal family: the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and the Duke of Cambridge.”
News outlets frequently prepare obituaries in advance for high-profile people, as iMediaEthics has previously reported, and sometimes this leads to errors. In 2013, Reuters published its prepared obituary for George Soros, who is still alive, by accident. Also that year, Deutsche-Welle published an obituary for Nelson Mandela six months before his death. Last year, People published an obituary for Kirk Douglas, who is also still alive. And, in 2011, the Washington Post published its obituary for writer Christopher Hitchens still with its placeholder text for place and cause of death.
Several news outlets repeated the false news about Queen Elizabeth before it was retracted, including CNN Newsource’s Twitter account and German tabloid Bild‘s Twitter account, the Independent reported. The Hindustan Times‘ editor also tweeted the false news, according to the Guardian.
CNN Newsource tweeted a retraction statement, the Guardian noted.
The Queen actually had been at the hospital today “very briefly,” a Buckingham Palace spokesperson told the Independent, for “her annual medical check-up.”.
UPDATED: 6/3/2015 2:26 PM EST