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Cash gets 60 Minutes out of jail, for now

By Malcolm King - posted Friday, 22 April 2016


Lebanon has been the battle ground for extremists such as the PLO, Hamas and the Israeli Army for some years. Yet for all of their travails, the Lebanese people are some of the most welcoming and kindest people on earth.

What have they done to deserve the ridiculous and dangerous antics of an Australian 60 Minutes crew?

Channel Nine has bought the freedom of 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown, the TV crew and Ms Faulkner, who, as part of a massive payout, must divorce her Lebanese husband and hand custody of her children to him. That's not exactly the result she was after.

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According to Fairfax media, it was the personal anguish of Nine Network cameraman Benjamin Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment at not seeing their children, which led the father to drop the charges against his wife and the 60 Minutes crew.

He felt pity on a pack of idiots who would have served up to 20 years if found guilty of kidnapping, physical assault, hiding information and criminal conspiracy charges. Of course, a Channel Nine bagman rolling up with the dosh helps.

Yet they are not completely out of the woods yet. Judge Rami Abdullah said the 60 Minutes crew and Ms Faulkner are still facing public prosecution charges of kidnapping and being members of a criminal gang and may be required to return to Lebanon if the state decides to go ahead with the prosecution.

It's extraordinary that Channel Nine would fund a half-baked scheme to kidnap children in broad daylight in a battle torn country. Anyone could have got killed. As the father said "This is Lebanon". Why attempt it? Ratings.

Video footage shows the moment the children were taken, as three men lunged for the two young children as they walked along the street. A female guardian was knocked to the ground and the children were rushed into a waiting car. Why? Ratings.

It might come as a surprise to readers that Australia's TV media of the calibre of A Current Affair and 60 Minutes is not well regarded abroad because of these 'cowboy' style antics.

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After the convictions for sexual assault on women in western Sydney, sections of the media, including 60 Minutes, did a 'shock horror' tabloid job on the convicted men, which smoldered in to racial profiling of all Lebanese men. The Lebanese have long memories but better ethics than Channel Nine.

The local media were outraged that two Lebanese children were kidnapped from their grandmother in the middle of a Hezbollah area.

Had the children's Lebanese father brought a crew of Lebanese journalists to Australia and pulled the same stunt when the children lived here with their mother, it would have been met with a fury so all-encompassing, it would have ensnared the entire Lebanese community. I can picture the Daily Telegraph headlines now.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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