I thought journalists were meant to be reporting on the news, not creating news. I thought journalists were meant to simply record the facts, not make them up as they go along. I thought journalists were meant to be neutral and objective, not partial and biased.
But foolish me – little did I know. Once upon a time we had more or less balanced and impartial news services reporting on what was happening in the world. Now they have become advocates and partisans, usually for various leftist and PC causes.
And sometimes they even become newsmakers themselves, going well beyond what journalistic ethics allows for. Consider as Exhibit A the Australian news crew that actually went overseas and aided and abetted in a kidnapping attempt! And it seems like good money may have been spent on this as well.
This stinks to high heaven. The story broke nearly a week ago now. It concerns an Australian woman whose marriage to a Muslim broke down, and the husband went back to Lebanon with the children. She took a 60 Minutes TV crew with her in an attempt to kidnap them back.
Now let me say at the outset that I am of course not privy to all the fine details of this case. All marriage breakups involving children can be terrible for everyone involved. And in this case, we know how poorly women are treated in Islam. And in a divorce, the Muslim male will win custody of the kids. That is how Islam works, so Western women really should become a bit informed before marrying Muslims.
Anyway, now it seems we have one case of kidnapping followed by another case of kidnapping. The original story involves these details:
Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner has joined reporter Tara Brown and her 60 Minutes colleagues behind bars in Beirut. Ms Faulkner was arrested by Lebanese police for allegedly kidnapping her two children from a street in the Lebanese capital, with the Nine Network crew covering the story. After being temporarily reunited with her children, who she claims were kidnapped by her ex-husband after failing to return them to Australia from a holiday in his native country, Ms Faulkner was taken into custody according to local police and media outlets.
The alleged kidnapping took place at a Beirut bus stop where the children, Noah and Lahela, were approached while out with another person, believed to be their paternal grandmother. Following the incident, police detained on kidnapping suspicion Brown, producer Steven Rice and a cameraman while they were trying to film the recovery of the brother and sister.
When I first saw this on the news I was shocked. And each new day things are looking worse for the news crew. Just what were they thinking!? Another more recent report mentioned what charges they are facing: “It is understood the charges being brought by the prosecution include: hiding information, forming an association with two or more people to commit crime against a person, kidnapping or holding a minor, and physical assault.”
This is serious stuff folks. And a story today makes clear just what sort of penalties they might expect: “Ashen-faced and in handcuffs, Sally Faulkner and the four-member television crew walked into a Lebanon judge’s private office on Tuesday where they were charged with numerous offences including abduction at gunpoint, threatening the lives of children and harming them. If found guilty they could face up to 20 years in jail.”
Things are looking increasingly grimmer for the mother and 60 Minutes team. And I am not taking sides here with the couple in question. As I say, I am not fully aware of all the details. But divorce almost always sucks, and is so often entered into far too easily. And as mentioned, for Western women to foolishly enter into a marriage contract with Muslim men – well, they are almost asking for trouble.
And trouble there now is. Even if there is a legitimate place for “child recovery” as they are calling this, at least in certain circumstances, the way this was done makes it a classic case for Amateur Hour. As one expert put it:
A child recovery specialist has slammed 60 Minutes over its attempt to recover abducted Australian children from Lebanon, labelling the operation “amateurish” and “dangerous”. Colin Chapman, who runs Queensland-based Child Recovery Australia, said on Tuesday morning the TV crew could’ve been shot while trying to extract the children in broad daylight.
“Doing it in a busy street, underneath CCTV cameras … I don’t know if you saw the footage but that’s horrific what the kids were exposed to,” Mr Chapman told ABC radio. “They were spear-tackled almost into the back of the car. I’m very critical of it, as you can guess. (It was) very amateurish, very dangerous. There’s guns everywhere over there. You don’t conduct that sort of operation in the Middle East without expecting to get shot.”
Mr Chapman said he had been working with Ms Faulkner on how to get her children back after they were abducted. He stopped assisting when, under the guidance of 60 Minutes, she went with another recovery agency. Fairfax Media reports Ms Faulkner and Mr Chapman sent a dozen messages to one another during the panicked moments when the original plan to recover her two children went wrong.
Many have especially slammed 60 Minutes – and rightly so. One journalist, Michael Lallo, rightly asks some hard questions here:
What was 60 Minutes thinking? If the Lebanese authorities’ explosive claims are true – if the program did pay for a botched child recovery operation – it raises serious legal and ethical questions. This isn’t just a current affairs show writing a cheque for another juicy exclusive. It’s now a major diplomatic incident.
Let’s flip the scenario. Imagine two kids are snatched from a bus stop in Australia, in a daring daylight raid. Not by government welfare workers – but a private, foreign “child recovery agency”. Turns out that agency has been involved in other bungled abductions, for which its employees have been jailed. Worse, this debacle may have been funded by a TV network, to the tune of $115,000.
The outcome of the actual, real life scenario sees high-profile 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown and three colleagues in a Beirut jail. They’re joined by a distraught Australian woman, Sally Faulkner, whom they were supposed to help. Faulkner’s two young children, Lahela and Noah, are back with their father, Ali Elamine. He is the man she alleges took them to Lebanon for a holiday last year – and never returned.
Ms Faulkner’s anguish is understandable. As is her desire to drum up media attention. But at what cost? That’s not something a desperate, tormented mother can coolly assess. A TV program can. It’s not enough to ask, “Is this interesting to the public?”, or even, “Is this in the public interest?” When your story concerns an international custody dispute – affecting the lives of young children – you must consider: “Could our involvement make a bad situation worse?”
If it emerges that no money changed hands, 60 Minutes may argue it was merely documenting an ugly situation. If that’s true – and in light of the political and diplomatic sensitivities – the producers should confirm it. Even so, that doesn’t (necessarily) get them off the hook. Did their filming requirements, in any way, contribute to this disaster?
If 60 Minutes paid Ms Faulkner, and not the child recovery agency directly, they may try to wash their hands. After all, she can spend her money how she pleases. Whether that flies with the Lebanese authorities remains to be seen.
But if those authorities prove the program bankrolled this mess, they’re in trouble. Especially if they confirm the agency is the same one linked to previous botched attempts. Did 60 Minutes do a background check before paying them? And just how responsible is it to fund a child snatch on a street in Beirut, of all places?
At this point, we’re still in the dark on many matters. We have no idea of the custody arrangements. The level of 60 Minutes‘ involvement remains unclear. Getting Ms Faulkner and the crew released from jail is the priority.
More than anything, Ms Faulkner wanted to be re-united with her children. A television program wanted a good story. If its actions contributed to these kids being denied their mother even longer, that’s the real problem.
I repeat, I am not siding with either the father or the mother. But I am siding against the bozos at Ch. 9 who thought they would have a neat story on their hands, even if it meant creating an international incident, and breaking a bunch of laws along the way. What idiots!
We can certainly pray for the children especially who are being tossed around like a football here. That usually is the case in a divorce. But to foolishly put children at risk in a decidedly unsafe place like Lebanon is the height of irresponsibility and a decided lack of professionalism.
I would not mind if the 60 Minutes team spends a bit more time behind bars. But it is the head honchoes at Ch. 9 that really deserve some jail time here. Shame on them for seeking to cash in – either literally or figuratively – on an already existing tragedy.