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Radio France Internationale kills off dozens of global celebrities, world leaders

The French public radio took premature obits to a whole new scale

“What will they say about me after I’m dead?”

Dozens of celebrities and world leaders found out on Monday when public service radio and website Radio France Internationale accidentally pronounced them dead.

Premature obituaries pop up every now and then. A staff writer updates the bio of some former president or actor (news agencies and major publications have them on hand for when the inevitable happens). Then, they hit “publish” rather than “save to draft.”

The practice is so common, in fact, that Wikipedia has a whole list of accidental obituaries. It includes such prominent figures as George Soros (still alive) and Steve Jobs (now dead, but alive when Bloomberg published a 17-page opus on his life and death).

“Killing off” close to a hundred at once, however, is much rarer.

The list of eminences to learn they were deceased included Queen Elizabeth the II, writer Noam Chomsky, football coach Alex Ferguson, actors Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo, directors Clint Eastwood and Roman Polanski, and the former Cuban President Raúl Castro.

For some it was not the first or even the second time. Businessman and former minister Bernard Tapie already got to see his obituary in Le Monde in 2019. He then heard it live the same year during a broadcast of L’Équipe.

The publication happened as a result of a glitch in content management system migration. It was rectified hours later, but not before Twitter, Google, and portals like Yahoo News and MSN had spread the word.

Presumably, because of the mass publication most prominent figures could avoid the awkward “I’m not dead, yet” press release. The best-known example remains Mark Twain’s: “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated” (he was prematurely pronounced dead twice).

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