A 60 Minutes journalist who was detained in Lebanon after a child recovery attempt went horribly wrong has opened up about the botched operation.
Tara Brown was sent to Beirut, the country’s capital, with three crew members in 2016 in an ambitious bid to reunite an Australian mother with her two children.
The current affairs program was filming Sally Faulkner’s attempt to take back her daughter, Lahela, then five, and son, Noah, then three, when things went awry.
Ms Faulkner, from Brisbane, had claimed her estranged husband Ali Elamine had kept the children in Lebanon without her permission.
Veteran 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown has opened up about a story on a botched child recovery operation which resulted in her being arrested by police in Lebanon (pictured)
Brown (second from left) was arrested alongside Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner, 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment
Ms Faulkner, pictured with her children Lahela and Noah, had hoped to take back her children from Lebanon
Ms Faulkner had claimed her estranged husband Ali Elamine (pictured with the couple’s children) had taken the children to Lebanon without her permission
The plan to snatch the children off a Beirut street with the help of a child recovery team ended in the 60 Minutes crew spending two weeks behind bars in Lebanon.
Brown was arrested and charged over the kidnapping attempt alongside senior producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson, sound recordist David Ballment and Ms Faulkner.
They were released from prison after the charges were dropped.
Channel Nine reportedly paid Mr Elamine US$500,000 in the official settlement after he rejected an earlier offer of $350,000.
Brown quickly became the story, with her name and face splashed across front pages nationwide, something that did not sit well with the veteran journalist.
Speaking for the 60 Minutes 40th anniversary edition, which will air on Sunday night, Brown said: ‘The ambition is never to be the story’.
Brown (centre) spent two weeks behind bars in Lebanon after she was arrested and charged over the kidnapping attempt
Brown, pictured in handcuffs after she was arrested by police, was released by prison after the charges were dropped
Brown, pictured with then 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice after arriving back in Australia from Lebanon, said ‘The ambition is never to be the story’
‘The ambition was to tell someone else’s story. And I think the story we went over there to do has been overshadowed by the interest in what happened to the crew.
‘I still haven’t seen those front pages. There is a great sense of sorrow when you realise what a splash you’ve made, for all the wrong reasons,’ she said.
But Brown is still adamant the saga was a story which should have been told.
‘There is definitely still a story to be told in Beirut, and you still want to tell it, despite what happened and despite various judgments around it,’ she said.
‘The core of what that was about is yet to be told and it’s a story that happens over an over again, potentially every week, in Australia.’
The botched operation had sent shockwaves through the 60 minutes team, with journalist Alison Langdon calling it ‘the worst day of my career as a journalist’.
Brown is pictured at left with the three other members of the 60 Minutes crew and Nine News boss Darren Wick (second right)
Brown is pictured on arrival back in Australia from Lebanon, flanked by then 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice, who was later sacked by Channel Nine
Ms Faulkner wanted to be reunited with her two children, who were in Lebanon with their father
Reflecting on whether 60 minutes should have attempted the story at all, reporter Charles Wooley said ‘In retrospect, you wouldn’t have wanted to because everybody went through such a torrid time’.
But veteran journalist Ray Martin, who previously worked on 60 Minutes, said he was ‘appalled’ at how other media reported on the ordeal.
‘The idea of journalists turning on other journalists for what is a legitimate story appalled me,’ he said.
‘I think the newspaper coverage was cheap and nasty. We should have all been working as journalists to get them out of there.’
Rice was later sacked by Channel Nine after spending 32 years with the network.
The 60 Minutes 40th anniversary special will air on Channel Nine on Sunday at 7pm.