Former 60 Minutes executive producer and leader of the investigation into the Lebanon operation Gerald Stone responds to Crikey’s editorial yesterday:

I don’t expect apologies from Crikey. I do expect fact-based commentary.

The Spanish child kidnapping story was commissioned in 1980, the second year of the program.

The Tasmanian mother took the child herself  after arranging a meeting with her estranged husband in a busy Barcelona café. During a few moments when he was distracted she simply walked out, infant in arms, and hailed a taxi. That was the so-called ‘getaway car’ and the Nine crew was nowhere near.

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Later, the mother and her determined publican father — along with our crew — did drive a hire car some nine hours to a seaport near to Gibraltar. It was highly unlikely Spanish police would have set up road blocks on all major highways out of Barcelona looking for the child, especially since the estranged husband’s own family members felt he had done the wrong thing by stealing the baby from his Tasmanian home in the first place.

I suppose if you were in that second “escape car” you might be anxious about a flat tyre or accident that could bring you undone.

60 Minutes in those early years established itself as determined  to bring viewers the human face behind every important issue. In a multi-cultural country like Australia, the tragedies caused by marital breakups between parents of different nationalities and religions had been totally ignored up to then.

Yes, I thought the risks — though remote compared to  modern-day Beirut — were worth taking in 1980. How many custody disputes have been covered since then?

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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