60 minutes saga: Channel to hold inquiry

Nine looking into 60 Minutes team’s role in child-grab saga but says it will not stop reporting on abduction stories.

A leaked email from Channel Nine's CEO reveals the Australian broadcaster plans to conduct a full review to "ascertain what went wrong" and why its systems failed to protect its staff, but reiterated it will continue to report on child abductions.

Hugh Marks sent an email to all staff describing his "enormous relief" over the news Australian mother Sally Faulkner, reporter Tara Brown and her 60 Minutes crew - David "Tangles" Ballment, Stephen Rice and Ben Williamson - have been released from prison after charges against them were dropped.

He revealed the broadcaster will conduct a "full review ... to ascertain what went wrong and why our systems, designed to protect staff, failed to do so in this case."

It is the first indication of how the broadcaster plans to fix the diplomatic mess it found itself in, after the group was jailed and charged related to a botched attempt to abduct Faulkner's two children from their father Ali Elamine in Beirut.

"As you would all by now be aware, our 60 Minutes team, together with Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner, are out of detention and on their way home," Mr Marks' email reads.

"It is an enormous relief for all involved but particularly the families and loved ones of our 60 Minutes team who have suffered a great deal over these last two weeks."

Marks said the crew "asked me to thank the officials in Lebanon who were involved in their detention for their professionalism and for treating them with dignity and respect".

He defended Channel Nine's actions in the saga, claiming it was "important to reiterate that at no stage did anyone from Nine or 60 Minutes intend to act in any way that made them susceptible to charges that they breached the law or to become part of the story that is Sally's story. But we did become part of the story and we shouldn't have."

Despite the drama since the failed abduction, Marks declared the issue of child abduction was "an issue that we will continue to highlight".

"What has happened to Sally happens all too often and affects thousands of Australian families. It is a story that not only is profoundly in the public interest but also one the public is interested in," he wrote.

He defended Nine's head of news and current affairs Darren Wick, who reports claim is on Nine's chopping block. But perhaps not so, with Marks urging all staff to "drop in to Wickie's office when he is back and say thanks".

Wick has been in Lebanon since the saga unfolded.

The father at the centre of the botched kidnapping plan, Elamine, dropped the charges against his estranged wife, Faulkner, saying he did not want his children to think he'd left their mother in jail.

However it came at price - in return she must grant him a divorce and custody of the children. She has rights to visit them in a third country or Lebanon, but not in Australia.

Child Abduction Recovery Network boss Adam Whittington and fellow Briton Craig Michael remain in jail. The Nine Network says it feels no obligation to help them.

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A spokeswoman for Nine confirmed to news.com.au that some compensation was paid to Elamine to help secure their release but would not comment on how much money changed hands.

When asked why Nine had not included the four members of CARI in the deal, she said: "They are not part of our team, they have their own legal advice and process to go through."

Asked about suggestions Nine had abandoned the group, she said: "We had no contractual relationship with them in the first place and still have no obligations to them."

Former Labor leader Mark Latham said Nine should help the child recovery group.

"[If Nine] had any decency in the circumstances, having paid the so-called child recovery crew, they would have some regard for their interests instead of leaving them behind in the jail cell," Latham told rival Seven's breakfast show Sunrise.

Lawyer Wafa Hoballah of WJH Law Group said the lawyer representing the men was well-known in the country and it was likely an agreement would be reached with political support from government representatives.

- news.com.au, AAP

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