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Nine Sacks 60 Minutes Producer Stephen Rice After Beirut Review

Other staff have received formal warnings, the network said.

27/05/2016 2:55 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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Reuters
Australian 60 Minutes journalist Tara Brown (C) and 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice arrive at Sydney International Airport, April 21, 2016.

The Nine Network has sacked long-standing producer Stephen Rice following a review into the circumstances which resulted in 60 Minutes staff being arrested in Beirut.

Journalist Tara Brown, Rice, two other 60 Minutes crew members and Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner were arrested last month while working to bring Faulkner's two children back to Australia.

Nine announced an independent review chaired by Peter Costello and conducted by 60 Minutes founder Gerard Stone, while a statement from the network said the manner in which Faulkner's story was handled exposed the crew to serious risks and reputational damage.

"I had the honour to help start that stopwatch ticking 37 years ago and regrettably this has been the gravest misadventure in the program's history," Stone said.

The network got too close to the story and suffered damaging consequences, Nine CEO Hugh Marks said in a statement.

"Amongst other elements of the execution of this story it was inappropriate, and at odds with our standard procedure, for a payment to be made directly by 60 minutes to the recovery agency that had been independently contracted by Sally Faulkner.

"It was also inappropriate, with the risks involved for our crew, not to have consulted with nine's security advisors before the story was finalised."

Rice, the producer of the story, is leaving the company immediately and other staff have received formal warnings.

"The crew continue to receive counselling related to the events in Lebanon and the other team members will return to work soon," the statement said.

The Australian reports Rice had been a 60 Minutes producer since 2004, after a decade as executive producer of the Nine Network's Sunday program, and won two Walkley Awards for journalism.

Costello said Nine will put in place a strengthened risk assessment system.

Adam Whittington, a child recovery specialist who helped with the operation, is still in a Lebanon prison.

Journalist Peter Greste, who spent a year in an Egyptian prison, has called on Nine to help secure Whittington's release from custody.

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