He’s one of the most recognisable faces in Australia media today and for good reason: Ray Martin is a seasoned and respected journalist. But there’s a shadow in his past that has been played out again 30 years on: child abduction and the dramas that come with it.
In an interview on Brisbane radio, Ray Martin defended the ethics of the 60 Minutes crew, while recounting his own experience in filming a child recovery for the program in the 1980s. 30 years ago, Martin travelled to Spain with a woman whose 20-month-old son had been taken there by her estranged husband.
At the time, Martin and his camera crew risked imprisonment to capture the rescue on film before fleeing the country. He said he knew full well about the consequences.
“I was aware of that and that’s one of the risks you’d take,” he said, reports News Corp.
“Ethically, as a journalist, I thought we were doing the right thing, because the courts had judged the case and decided that the mother had custody of the children, and the father had broken Australian laws and taken the children away.”
Martin said he believed pursuing the story it was “the decent thing to do” to help the mother.
“I guess if you’re in the situation of the mother or the family and a child is taken, never to be seen again, that is a huge story that I would find a valid story for a journalist to do.”
The difference with Martin’s story for 60 Minutes is that no payment was made by Channel 9 to the private investigator involved in the incident.
“We certainly didn’t pay any money to them,” Martin said.
“I’m very conscious of what’s happening in Lebanon and they’re friends and colleagues of mine, so I would say nothing about that that might affect the case, but it’s obviously, it’s very serious”.
He wouldn’t comment on whether Channel 9 did in fact pay the child recovery agency, said he has no idea but “I know the crew are highly ethical, and I can’t believe they would do something that’s unethical”.
When asked why a child recovery story was worth risking jail for, Martin said it was about “attempting to right a wrong”.
“As journalists we do stories that we think are right, and are ethical,” he said.
“If you don’t take risks in war zones and other areas then you don’t do your job as a journalist … No one’s being marched into these areas, but I suspect that the four people involved, who are highly professional and experienced, thought that it was a valid story and it was an ethical story”.
Also this morning, the mother Sally Faulkner was interviewed by The Australian from her prison cell in Lebanon.
“Please tell my mum and dad how well I am and also Brendan and my in-laws,’’ she said. “I am fine but my loved ones need to know that.’’
Ms Faulkner said she had specifically told them not to come over to Lebanon to visit her as “they had priorities and commitments back home’’, reports The Australian.
Ms Faulkner also didn’t want to talk about her children Lahela and Noah except to stress to their correct ages: five and three. Her other child, a three month-old baby, is with new husband Brendan.
‘’I would leave Beirut in a heartbeat, but events have to follow their course,’’she said.
She gave no sign as to whether custody negotiations with her ex-husband Ali Elamine had progressed.
Ms Faulkner said she had been receiving some “really lovely messages’’ of support from Australians.
“Please tell them that I am getting the messages and they have been really lovely and boosting our spirits,’’ she said.
At this stage, the judge wants further investigation about who signed off on the kidnapping plot and who paid for the operation, with a hearing to follow on Monday.