Queen, Pele get premature obituaries

Radio France Internationale wrongly published the obituaries of about 100 personalities, including (from left) Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Brazil's football hero Pele and Italian actress Sophia Loren.
Radio France Internationale wrongly published the obituaries of about 100 personalities, including (from left) Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Brazil's football hero Pele and Italian actress Sophia Loren. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, ST FILE

PARIS • Radio France Internationale (RFI) apologised on Monday for mistakenly publishing obituaries of about 100 personalities who are still very much alive, including Britain's Queen Elizabeth, 94, and Brazilian football hero Pele, 80.

Citing a "technical problem" that caused the death notices to be released on its website Monday, the French public broadcaster said: "We offer our apologies to the people concerned and to you who follow and trust us.

"We are mobilising to rectify this major bug," said the RFI on its Twitter account.

Others declared dead included Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former United States president Jimmy Carter, Cuban leader Raul Castro, actors Clint Eastwood, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot - all in their 80s and 90s.

The station came under much online derision for the glitch, even though it is common practice across newspapers and websites to prepare obituaries for well-known faces before their deaths.

According to The Guardian newspaper, the obituary of the Queen as written by RFI read: "The United Kingdom awoke an orphan this morning. Buckingham Palace officially announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen, who died of…, turned 94 on 21 April 2020.

"All Albion laments the disappearance of its sovereign who, at the head of her country since 1952, has constituted the immovable bedrock around which England's postcolonial history has unfolded, full of sound and fury."

It also suggested a preface for the obituary in case the Queen's death was due to Covid-19: "The coronavirus pandemic that has wrought havoc around the world is no respecter of crowned heads. In England… it has claimed the life of the monarch. The United Kingdom awoke an orphan this morning. Infected by the virus, Queen Elizabeth II, aged 93, did not survive associated pulmonary complications."

In the case of French business mogul-turned-politician Bernard Tapie, 77, the RFI's mistake was not the first or even the second time he has been prematurely declared dead. French newspaper Le Monde published his obituary in 2019 and the TV station of the sports paper L'Equipe killed him off on screen last August.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2020, with the headline 'Queen, Pele get premature obituaries'. Subscribe