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No moral mystery to 60 minutes child snatch disaster

  • 27 April 2016
  The mystery of the 60 Minutes child snatch that went so disastrously wrong is that there is no mystery, although some people want to contrive one.

Ethically there are no shades of grey here. We know what happened, and we know that what 60 Minutes and TCN Nine agreed to do by helping Sally Faulkner abduct her children in Beirut violated a fundamental tenet of journalism.

That tenet can be simply expressed: don't make yourself a player in the story, especially not by paying other players in the story. Because if you do, your audience has no reason to trust your account of what the story is.

That's it. It's as basic as that, and it is what 60 Minutes did. No amount of obfuscation and special pleading will change that.

But the obfuscators are emerging nonetheless, unctuously intent on mystifying the story after all.

Not least among them is Tara Brown (pictured), the reporter 60 Minutes sent to Beirut.

After Brown, her producer Stephen Rice, camera operator Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment had returned to Australia from their two-week stint in a Beirut jail, she insisted that they 'were just journalists doing their job'.

Apparently this is why Brown felt confident that she and her colleagues would quickly be released.


"The 'mistakes and failings' narrative evades the truth, too. It is another attempt to mystify what is not mysterious, because it replaces a moral evaluation of the events with a technical one."


'I really thought, we're journalists, we're doing our job, they will see reason, they'll understand that,' she said. 'That we are here just to do a story on a very desperate mother.'

Except that 60 Minutes' involvement in the story went way beyond following Sally Faulkner to Beirut to see whether she could reclaim her children Lahela, five, and Noah, three, from their father, her former partner Ali Elamine.

Lawyers acting for Adam Whittington and his euphemistically named 'child recovery team', who are all still in custody in Beirut, have tendered in court a document indicating that Nine paid Whittington nearly $70,000 for his work.

Nine has not officially admitted funding the abductors, but in the circumstances the network's refusal to comment comes about as close to exemplifying the maxim that silence gives consent as can be imagined.

The reason for the disclosure of the payment to Whittington's company, Child Abduction Recovery International, is obvious enough.

Whittington's lawyer, Joe Karam, said that he wished his client and the three