After broadcasting on Twitter that Queen Elizabeth was dead, BBC reporter Ahmen Khawaja is now due to face disciplinary action while the outlet rushes to explain the mistaken announcement.
Earlier that morning, Khawaja had broadcasted that the Queen was en route to the hospital, saying: “BREAKING: Queen Elizabeth is being treated at King Edward 7th Hospital in London. Statement due shortly: @BBCWorld.”
While the BBC was holding an annual, “technical rehearsal for an obituary” to practice in the event of the sudden death of the Queen or other elders in the Royal Family, Khawaja overheard a hypothetical exercise and tweeted what she believed to be breaking news.
“‘Queen Elizabrth has died [sic]’:@BBCWorld”
By the time Khawaja realized she had tweeted false information, many of her followers had retweeted the fallacy and the rumor mill was running rampant around the globe.
Affiliates, please disregard our previous tweet about Queen Elizabeth. It was sent in error.
— CNN Newsource (@CNNNewsource) June 3, 2015
Khawaja deleted her original post and tweeted, “False alarm: Have deleted previous tweets!”
She then attributed the rumor to a “silly prank” when she left her phone unattended. However, BBC sources have said the tweets were broadcasted as a “direct result” of Khawaja’s eavesdropping on the obituary rehearsal.
False Alarm: Have deleted previous tweets!!
— Ahmen Khawaja (@AhmenKhawaja) June 3, 2015
Despite the reporter’s efforts to negate her previous tweet, the Buckingham Palace had no choice but to make a statement regarding the incident — breaking Palace protocol to never comment on the health of the Royal Family.
“I can confirm that the Queen this morning attended her annual medical check-up at the King Edward VII’s Hospital in London,” a Buckingham Palace spokesperson announced. “This was a routine, pre-scheduled appointment, [and] the Queen has now left [the] hospital.”
BBC has attested to the fact that Ahmen Khawaja will be facing disciplinary action pending a formal corporation investigation. However, Khawaja is not the only one to be penalized for this episode of Twitter frenzy.
With her fraudulent tweet, Khawaja landed the BBC back on Buckingham Palace’s blacklist — which according to a Telegraph UK report, annexes prior incidences, such as a 2007 video edit that appeared to show the Queen ditching a portrait sitting, and “inane coverage of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant and this year’s delay on the release of a Royal Family documentary.”
Jonathan Munro — a BBC staffer who initiated the rehearsal — had sent an email earlier that morning to inform BBC employees of this “technical procedure.”
“It’s essential that we can rehearse these sensitive scenarios privately,” Munro said, “Refrain from any external conversations and all social media activity about this exercise. Your continued discretion will be greatly appreciated.”
The BBC has apologized for any offense the tweet may have caused the public and, once again, has assured that the offending reporter will be disciplined accordingly.
“Once proved wrong,” CNN Money said in an article regarding the pending internal investigation, “the incident [stands] as a reminder to journalists about the perils of sharing unverified information on social media.”