Tortured in the line of duty: the untold story of 60 Minutes' botched Beirut kidnap saga — and the man who lives it every day

www.crikey.com.au
7 min read
fairly easy
Nine Entertainment's insurer GIO denies liability for the egregious harm suffered by its employee. Meanwhile, Ben Williamson is a broken man.
Ben Williamson and his family on the north coast of NSW in 2019 (Image: Supplied)

Note: the following article contains descriptions of torture.

It took Lebanon's security services 72 hours to break Australian cameraman Ben Williamson. He was tortured in the line of duty but no longer feels his employer, Nine Entertainment Co, has his back.

Almost five years ago to the day, Williamson was arrested when a 60 Minutes attempt to snatch two children off the streets of Beirut and reunite them with their Australian mother, Sally Faulkner, went horribly wrong. Williamson as the cameraman had the job of recording the drama and raw emotion.

It was meant to be a sure-fire ratings winner. Instead it ended in ignominy for 60 Minutes as its crew of four including reporter Tara Brown were held on kidnapping charges for a fortnight while Nine attempted to staunch an unfolding public relations disaster back home.

The nightmare has never ended for Williamson. A big man who would run through brick walls if that was what the job demanded, he now has days where he can barely lift his head from the pillow. The sounds of a bustling cafe make him anxious. The panic attacks while driving. The short fuse with his wife and children. The nights without sleep. The constant headaches.

Ben Williamson (left) in Afghanistan in 2011 (Image: Supplied)

Isolated from friends and colleagues he has been ashamed to let on who he has become — and why. It's left him, at the age of 42, to contemplate a future in which he may never work, and perhaps never be himself, again.

Williamson's plight is in the hands of an insurance company, GIO, which insists Nine has no responsibility for what happened to him in Beirut. In fact, they've informed him that whatever went wrong was down to him. And anyway, he should have put his claim in sooner, before a three-year time limit.

Williamson has been forced to relive the horrors of Beirut again and again in the rooms of psychiatrists and lawyers as GIO has made…
David Hardaker
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