‘They got off easy’: 60 Minutes crew’s release gets chilly social media reaction

When Australian journalist Peter Greste was freed from an Egyptian prison after 400 days behind bars, messages of support flooded in from Australia and around the world.

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Greste, who was imprisoned alongside two Al Jazeera colleagues on charges of defaming Egypt and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, had become a symbol of the fight for press freedom during his trial and incarceration, triggering the worldwide #FreeAJStaff campaign.

Flash forward to the case of Australian journalist Tara Brown, who was freed from a Beirut prison overnight with three Channel Nine colleagues and Australian mother Sally Faulkner, and the public sentiment is very different.

The Nine crew spent 14 days behind bars after they were arrested filming Ms Faulkner’s attempt with a child recovery team to snatch her two children off a busy Beirut street and take them to back to Brisbane.

The crew left Lebanon on Thursday Australia time after a deal was reached with the childrens’ father, Ali Elamine, to dismiss charges against them.

Channel Nine staff took to social media to celebrate:

Excellent news! Let’s get them home. 苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/CK5Cobpqg0

— Jayne Azzopardi (@JayneAzzo) April 20, 2016Great news our friends are coming home. #60mins

— Lizzie Pearl (@lizziepearl) April 20, 201660 Minutes team begin to make their way home to Australia, with 9News’ Darren Wick. pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/TBhL4Qd4gD

— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) April 20, 2016

But many members of the public were less sympathetic:

I’m stunned that the charges were dropped against 60 Minutes. There I was thinking that Kidnapping was a serious crime.

— Brad Sprigg (@bradsprigg) April 21, 2016I hope the #60mins journos have learned a valuable lesson about allowing their egos to cross the line without their brains in check.

— Natasha (@tashwil06) April 20, 2016Cmon media guys. Its not like the 60 minutes team was Peter Greste. Lets keep some perspective.

— shebbie (@schlutes) April 21, 2016From breaking the law and endangering lives, they got off easy. #60mins still has a story while the mother just lost her parental rights.

— Sarah Yahya (@yahya_sarah) April 20, 2016

Nine Network has launched a review into the saga, with Chief executive Hugh Marks saying in an email that Nine should have never become “part of the story”.

“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,” Mr Marks said.

“But we did become part of the story and we shouldn’t have.”

Former 60 Minutes executive producer Gerald Stone will head the review, alongside Nine executive David Hurley and the broadcaster’s in-house general counsel Rachel Launders.

The internal inquiry will “ascertain what went wrong and why our systems, designed to protect staff, failed to do so in this case”.

Adam Whittington, the “child recovery” agent involved in the botched abduction, will remain in custody with two others involved in the case.

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