Four Australian 60 Minutes reporters attempted a violent street kidnapping which was caught on camera, and have landed in a Lebanese jail facing serious charges.
It’s an epic journalism ethics failure that might leave an Aussie news crew in Lebanese prison for years to come.
Hubris is the culprit.
The Aussie 60 Minutes TV crew wanted to help 29-year old flight attendant Sally Faulkner to bring her two children Lahala, six, and Noah four, back to Australia from Lebanon
Her husband Ali Elamine promised to return from vacation in his home country, but lied to his wife and stayed in Lebanon.
Supposed professionals at Child Abduction Recovery International told Lebanese authorities that the Australian 60 Minutes producers paid them $115,000 to run the operation.
So 60 Minutes reporters could record the whole fiasco.
The chaotic, failed kidnapping was attempted in broad daylight, injuring two women, and leading CARI’s mercenaries being arrested:
A car containing employees of CARI and Ms. Faulkner had cruised to a stop near a bus stop in South Beirut where Mr. Elamine’s mother and a nanny were walking the two young children.
Two CARI agents got out of the the car and grabbed the children from the arms of their grandmother and another woman, while a third passenger appeared to be video recording the snatch, according to grainy security camera video captured by a CCTV camera at a nearby shop.
When one of the women appeared to fight back, she was violently pushed away from the vehicle, which then sped off.
Faulkner had a mother’s desperation to re-unite with her children, but international and Lebanese law is squarely on Elamine’s side
Parental rights are automatically given to fathers in Lebanon and the country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, which stipulates that children be returned to their “country of habitual residence”.
And so Faulkner turned to the media, with disastrous consequences. Now, along with four 60 Minutes journalists including presenter Tara Brown, she is in custody in Beirut following an audacious attempt to snatch the two children from a Beirut street. Two of the agents working for CARI, the “child recovery” organisation behind the bungled operation (run by Australian ex-soldier Adam Whittington), are also in custody.
Aussie 60 Minutes’ Executive Producer Kirsty Thomson, star reporter Tara Brown and producer Stephen Rice made a horrible decision to breach journalism ethics.
America’s 60 Minutes started in 1968 on CBS and spawned five international editions, of which, the Aussie program that kidnaps children began in 1979, and has been by far the most successful to date.
At least until they participated in the violent, street abduction of Sally Faulkner’s two children on the streets of Beirut.
Luckily, nobody died.
CARI mercenary Adam Whittington said that the kidnapping was doomed by Faulkner’s emailsbefore the operation leading to their plans being revealed in advance.
Now, Whittington and three others are crammed into a single-person cell, and Australian authorities won’t assist him after the CARI planner entered Lebanon on a UK passport.
America’s Society of Professional Journalists lists “Minimize Harm” as one of its top four headlines, first saying in that section of its ethics code:
Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
The arrested include mother Falkner, reporter Brown and producer Rice, along with colleagues cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment all face 20-year prison sentences according to News.com.au.
No matter the outcome, numerous careers will be ruined, and the frustrated mother will likely bear permanent separation from her children too.
When the whole disastrous kidnapping on camera fell apart, Nine Network’s 60 Minutes producers completed their historically awful breach of journalistic ethical requirements to minimize harm, by rejecting Faulkner’s frantic requests for a ‘Plan B‘ escape with her children from Lebanon.
Any choice in the matter would be a grievous breach of ethics by then, because helping the mother would harm the father.
But, 60 Minutes producers did enable the mother to become a criminal conspirator.
They callously burned their subject.
She begged to take her chances in war-torn Syria, but even soldiers of fortune shot the idea down.
Then the 60 Minutes producers refused to pay for Faulkner’s $75,000 alternative escape plan, stranding her overseas with her two children until picked up by authorities.
“60 refusing to pay for the boat,” texted Colin Chapman to Faulkner revealing the TV network’s ultimate plan, “They’re relying on (Foreign Minister Julie) Bishop to get them out.”
In the end, neither child was harmed and both safely returned to their father, Ali Elamine.
Lebanese criminal charges are pending against the mother, journalists, mercenaries and two locals, who assisted the kidnapping plot and Faulkner’s desperate attempts to beg her husband to drop charges have failed.