A producer at Australia’s Nine Network was fired Friday after he and the rest of his television crew were arrested for trying to carry out a mother's plan to snatch her two children off a Lebanon street last month, according to a statement from the network.
Stephen Rice, the producer for Australia’s 60 Minutes program, paid a so-called child recovery service to abduct the children from their estranged father after their mother said he took the children on vacation last year and never returned them.
Gerald Stone, the show’s creator, called the incident “the gravest misadventure in the program’s history,” following the release of an internal review condemning the actions of the journalists in Lebanon.
“It’s clear from our findings that inexcusable errors were made,” he said in a statement.
Sally Faulkner, the mother of the children, and the four-person television crew were arrested in April, along with two agents from the British Child Abduction Recovery International company and two Lebanese nationals as they attempted to film Faulkner retrieving the children.
Ali al-Amin, the father of the children, agreed to drop kidnapping charges against Faulkner and the journalists as long as Faulkner surrendered any claims of custody over the children. At the time, he said he dropped the charges because he “didn’t want the kids to think I was keeping their mother in jail.”
The four members of the child recovery unit remain jailed in Lebanon on kidnapping charges.
According to the statement from Channel Nine, Rice will leave his post with the company immediately, and the other staff involved in the attempted kidnapping received formal warnings.
The review called into question Rice’s judgement in paying the child recovery agency, saying it directly violated company policy. The report also said the news team failed to raise critical questions regarding whether they were breaking the law.