Richard Moore: Mission to Lebanon foolish

By Richard Moore

1 comment
60 Minutes Australia's Tara Brown.
60 Minutes Australia's Tara Brown.

Working as a journalist in various parts of the world can be a dangerous job.

So far this year nine journalists have been killed. Last year 71 deaths were confirmed.

The war in Syria claimed most lives, 14, while other hotspots were Yemen (5), Iraq (5), Bangladesh (5), and South Sudan, also on five deaths.

The surprising runner-up was France, which lost nine journalists to violent deaths.

Eight of those died in January at the offices of magazine Charlie Hebdo when Muslim extremists made a revenge attack upon the publication for what they saw as an insult to Islam.

Another died in November when an Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris was attacked by terrorists, amid widespread brutality that left 130 Parisians dead.

Sometimes journalists die because they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had my own taste of that in Belfast where I came within metres of an exploding hand-grenade.

I'm too old to have "heroes" or "idols", but many of the photojournalists I admire and are stars of the profession, have died during combat.

The first female photographer to die was Gerda Taro. She was crushed by a tank during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

Her partner, the legendary Robert Capa, went on to capture one of the most famous war images ever, that of a Spanish soldier falling backwards after being shot. He also covered the Japanese invasion of China, World War II (including D-Day) and the Indo-China War between Vietnam and France.

Capa died in 1954 when he stood on a landmine.

Australia's Damien Parer was killed by mortar fire when covering US forces in the Pacific. He was the guy who shot the memorable images of Australian troops fighting the Japanese to a standstill on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.

War photographer Larry Burrows was killed in Vietnam when his helicopter was shot down over the Ho Chi Minh trail in 1971.

French lensman Henry Huet also died in the crash.

One of Huet's most tragic images was of the death Dickey Chapelle, the first US female correspondent to die in action. She was with US Marines in Vietnam when she tripped a boobytrap.

Correspondents often have to be lucky to survive a war and a mate of mine was definitely that during the Vietnam War.

Frank Palmos was a young reporter whose media jeep was ambushed by Viet Cong in 1968. Palmos escaped, but four others were not so lucky.

Let's not forget the five journalists killed by Indonesian forces after that country's invasion of East Timor in 1975.

They included Kiwi cameraman Gary Cunningham, two Australians, reporter Greg Shackleton, 29, and sound recordist Tony Stewart, 21, and two Brits, cameraman Brian Peters, 24, and reporter Malcolm Rennie, 29.

More recently we have lost the likes of Tim Hetherington, who was an Oscar-winning photographer mortally wounded in the Libyan civil war, and US correspondent Marie Colvin who was targeted by Libyan artillery in Syria's city of Homs.

These correspondents have all paid the ultimate price for their chosen calling: To bring to the world's eye the tragedy of war and the human face of its brutality.

This brings me to the story of the Australian 60 Minutes crew which is in a Lebanese jail.

The team of four, led by Tara Brown, was sent off on an assignment to film an Aussie mum trying to grab her children back from her Lebanese ex-husband.

To do this, a professional "snatch" team was hired from a company that does this line of work. The figure mentioned was $100,000 and who paid for it has yet to come to the surface, however, fingers are being pointed at Channel 9.

Channel 9 refuses to comment despite copping plenty of flak from the journalists' families and its own staff.

The plan came unstuck. No doubt in part because the kidnapping took place in the heart of Hezbollah territory.

In my view the mission was madness and the journalists should have refused to do it.

They are in serious legal trouble and my sympathy for them is much reduced by the fact it was an illegal act.

In a place where paranoia reigns and security is extremely tight, in my view Channel 9 should not have asked that team to go.

It was wrong, it was stupid.

I hope the news team gets out of Lebanon and doesn't have to spend too long in jail, but senior heads should be rolling at Channel 9.

- richard@richardmoore.com

- Richard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 29 May 2017 18:38:04 Processing Time: 583ms