60 Minutes Speaks On Child Abduction Charges, But Stays Mute On Tough Questions

18/04/2016 12:58 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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60 Minutes

60 Minutes has finally spoken on the child-recovery-gone-wrong which resulted in four of its crew being detained in Lebanon, potentially facing up to 20 years behind bars.

It is the update that Australians had been waiting for -- even if, in the end, it appeared to be more of an ode to the Lebanese authorities and Australian diplomats assisting the crew than a segment designed to inform the Australian public.

Announcer Ross Coulthart delivered the long-awaited update at the end of Sunday night's program in an address lasting just two minutes.

He acknowledged the severity of the situation and assured viewers that "every possible effort is being made to ensure our team's wellbeing."

"They were detained while filming a story on a child custody battle."

"We are working relentlessly to bring them home and we acknowledge the strong support of their families in helping us do that."

However, the program did not address claims that 60 Minutes paid the controversial "child recovery agency" involved as much as $112,000 to snatch Australian mother Sally Faulkner's children Lahala, 6, and Noah, 4, from their Lebanese grandmother.

Coulthart was also tight-lipped on the level of involvement of the program with mum Sally Faulker, simply stating: "And there’s Sally Faulkner, a mum from Brisbane who was trying to retrieve her two young children."

sally faulkner

Australian mum Sally Faulkner with her children Lahala, 6, and Noah, 4, in Lebanon on the night of the alleged child abduction. Source: Fairfax Media

Four 60 Minutes crew -- reporter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment -- have now been held in Beirut on child abduction charges since April 7.

They are due to appear in a Beirut court again on Monday.

Coulthart echoed previous reports that the crew "are said to be in good spirits and coping very well", before thanking the Lebanese authorities for "the respect shown to our crew".

In a joint statement released on Saturday, their families described the situation as "a living nightmare".

Some were still yet to tell their children what had happened.

Last week, Sally Faulkner's lawyer had expressed optimism that an agreement may be reached between Faulkner and her estranged American-Lebanese husband, Ali Elamine, which would have seen the charges against Faulkner dropped and potentially have benefited the 60 Minutes crew. However, the couple's lawyers have since reported that these negotiations have fallen through.

This is Ross Coulthart's full update on the situation:

60 Minutes has been featured in the news a lot over the last week because four members of our team remain in police custody in Beirut, Lebanon. They were detained while filming a story on a child custody battle. We want you to know that every possible effort is being made to ensure our team’s wellbeing as they go through the legal process. We are working relentlessly to bring them home and we acknowledge the strong support of their families in helping us do that. Before the next court appearance, scheduled tomorrow, my colleague Tara Brown tells us she is being well treated in a women’s detention centre. Stephen Rice the producer on the story is detained separately with cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment. And there’s Sally Faulkner, a mum from Brisbane who was trying to retrieve her two young children. They’ve been held now for 11 days but are said to be in good spirits and coping very well. It is a nerve wracking time for them all, and of course for their families waiting for news at home. We’ve been doing our very best to keep them informed of every development. The Nine Network has been very grateful to the authorities in Lebanon for the respect shown to our crew, and we acknowledge the untiring efforts of diplomatic staff in Beirut and in Canberra. We’ll keep you posted on how it’s going. Well that’s all for tonight’s program. I’m Ross Coulthart. Thanks for your company. Goodnight.

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