60 Minutes reporter's children kept in the dark

60 Minutes Australia journalist Tara Brown. Photo / Supplied
60 Minutes Australia journalist Tara Brown. Photo / Supplied

For the children of the Australian 60 Minutes reporter jailed in Beirut, bedtime is the hardest.

"When is mummy coming home?" the little boys ask their father at night.

They usually ask this when their mother Tara Brown is away on assignment, but instead of giving them an honest answer, this time their father, John McAvoy, is avoiding the question.

McAvoy spoke about the impact Brown's detainment was having on their sons Jack, 7 and Tom, 5, to NewsCorp Australia.

He was joined by other "anguished" partners and families of the detained TV crew that includes Brown, 48, producer Stephen Rice, 58, cameraman Ben Williamson, 37, and sound recordist David 'Tangles' Ballment, 55.

The families issued a joint statement to NewsCorp Australia7, this weekend. In it Denise Alexander Rice, Cara Williamson and Laura Battistel described the ordeal as "a living nightmare."

"It's hard to imagine it could be any tougher," the statement said.

"From what we know, they are in good health, keeping their spirits up and are being well looked after by the Lebanese authorities. You can't imagine how comforting it is to know that. That is all that is getting us through at the moment."

The families have turned to each other for support.

"We've formed our own crew back here because we're all in the same boat. Our natural instinct was to fly over and be there for them. Immediately. But our desire to be over there, possibly see them for ourselves and to give them our love and support has to be balanced against the advice from the people on the ground and that [advice] is to stay here," they said in the statement.

As lawyers for the embattled TV crew work "around-the-clock to secure the staffers release", their families spoke about how they were coping back home.

"Some of us haven't even told our children what's happening yet. It's not an easy conversation to have with a five or seven-year-old who ask as they go to sleep each night when mummy or daddy is coming home," they said.

"Understandably we are all anxious and worried sick."

Williamson's daughters are 8 and 5, and were are still unaware of what had happened to their father.

Their mother is desperate to protect the girls from their father's terrifying ordeal, News Corp reported.

Rice has twin daughters in their early 20s and a teenage son, who have all reportedly "kept a desperate vigil" with their mother Denise.

News Corp reported that Nine News boss Darren Wick flew out to Beirut to lead his network's own rescue efforts last weekend, taking with him personal letters for the detainees from loved ones, and special photos.

The families said in their statement that they were receiving regular updates.

"The updates are daily. And hugely valued. Nine is sharing whatever it knows as they hear about it. It is a day-to-day proposition, complicated by the fact that there is so little to go on and of course none of us are familiar with the Lebanese legal system.

The families also defended the crew's professionalism.

"People forget that Tara, Stephen, Ben and Tangles were there doing a job; covering a story. As it turns out, a very important story. It's what they do. It's what they have been doing brilliantly for years. Obviously, this time, something went wrong. But if we have one message, it's that people who have been so quick to judge should at least wait until all the facts are known. We haven't spoken to our partners since before they were arrested. Very few facts are clear at this stage. If we don't have all the facts, how can anyone else?"

Nine boss Hugh Marks said a full investigation into the incident and aftermath would take place only once "everyone is back in Australia".

The family statement added: "The analysis can come later. Right now, the only priority is getting them all home."

- NZ Herald

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