Former Nine exec admits to tipping off Indonesians over Wawa rescue

A 2006 Today Tonight incident, etched into TV folklore, gets a very odd coda.

Those with long memories in TV-land will remember the saga around Naomi Robson and Wawa…..

The 2006 incident is etched in TV folklore when Today Tonight headed to West Papua to rescue a six year old boy who had featured on 60 Minutes.

Amongst tribes who reportedly practised cannibalism, young Wawa was believed to have been possessed, and the only way to ‘cure’ him… well, you can guess the rest.

But Indonesian authorities detained Robson and her Seven crew after a tip-off they were travelling on tourist visas. A big no-no when it comes to filming.

Garry Linell, who was the director of News and Current Affairs at Nine at the time, now writes in the New Daily that he was the one who tipped off authorities because of the ratings bonanza it represented.

“I wrestled with the dilemma. There were ethical issues to ponder. Moral implications to be considered. Several long and excruciating seconds later, I came to a decision,” he writes.

“In war, you can just about excuse anything. I picked up the phone and began dialling.

“Of course, all hell broke loose after that.

“Robson and four colleagues were arrested after entering Indonesia and deported a day later. Seven accused Nine of deliberately sabotaging their mission to save Wawa. I hit back, describing such claims as unsubstantiated and beneath contempt.

“An anthropologist from the Australian National University claimed on radio that ‘… the real cannibalism here is the desire of these two channels to consume each other’s audiences and market share.'”

Wawa was eventually saved and adopted by a well-meaning family. Linnell’s article, which may be some kind of strange mea culpa, is curiously in response to Tom Gleeson telling the Logies room the industry takes itself too seriously. Clearly in 2006 it did.

“If he’s out there somewhere and happens to read this, I have a message for him,” Linnell adds.

“Get in touch, young fella. Lunch is on me.”

6 Responses

  1. As bad as this is especially in context of it being done for television ratings this type of media manipulation of events is not unusual in recent times, I remember it written years ago that during the rioting in Northern Ireland in the 70’s that cameramen paid for fire bombs to be thrown at British soldiers for better effect and small groups of rioting anarchists were made to look larger by grouping them together so that looked more out of control for the evening news.

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