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Nine CEO Hugh Marks: Questions about 60 Minutes answered ‘when everyone gets back’

Brown facing kidnapping charges in Lebanon.

Brown: Facing kidnapping charges in Lebanon.

The CEO of Nine Entertainment, Hugh Marks, has written to Nine staff seeking to reassure them the network is doing everything it can to free its 60 Minutes crew currently facing charges in Lebanon.

On Tuesday, reporter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment were formally charged over their involvement in a child recovery operation involving Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner, who was seeking to retrieve her two children from their father. Among the charges is one for kidnapping.

In recent days, a number of questions surrounding Nine’s involvement in the case have been raised, including allegations that 60 Minutes paid $120,000 to the agency involved in the child recovery operation.

“I know there are lots of questions about how this happened,” Marks wrote in an email to staff. “Questions we will get to the bottom of when everyone gets back. It is essential that we do whatever we can to help facilitate our crew’s fastest possible return to Australia.

“And I know it’s a testing and frustrating time for us all, especially for those who are close to the 60 crew, colleagues and friends. My priority is to get our crew home and every decision is made through that prism, while providing whatever support we can give to those who are impacted by these events.”

Marks: 'Questions will be answered when everyone gets back.'

Marks: “Questions will be answered when everyone gets back”

Marks did not address the payment question but did note that Nine’s news and current affairs boss Darren Wick, who is in Beirut to help try to get the crew out, has had “regular but brief visits” with the crew.

“They are in good health, generally good spirits, are detained in reasonable conditions and being well treated by local officials. Our fixer on the ground is doing a great job and we have organised food, books and other comforts and necessities.”

Wick has also been liaising with DFAT and the Lebanese government, with Marks noting: “Wickie has had numerous meetings with a wide range of senior government and legal officials and our presence there is being well received.

“We are highly respectful of the Lebanese legal process and this is well understood and appreciated over there. The signals from our PM and Foreign Minister have also been well received in Lebanon and we are getting good assistance from DFAT.”

Marks wrote that Nine saw it as encouraging that the judge had ordered the two parents, Australian mother Sally Faulkner and Lebanese father Ali Elamine, into mediation.

“We think it is encouraging that the judge has directed the parents of the two children to reach a mediated agreement on custody. It demonstrates sound logic and a rational approach to what has been an intractable issue for that family.”

Marks concludes by noting that the crew have appreciated the messages of support coming from colleagues, and told staff: “We are keeping the crew’s families informed with as much as we know, and regularly meeting them at Willoughby to keep them up to date. They are holding up very well under the circumstances.

“That goes to the heart of where we are right now; our colleagues are being detained and our first and only priority right now is to get them home.”

Nic Christensen 

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