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30 Oct 2014

The thirtieth anniversary of SBS’s Dateline is a chance to consider some often-unreported truths

The thirtieth-anniversary edition of Dateline, broadcast on SBS on 24 October, featured a selection of landmark stories from the program’s history. In the words of the guest host, Les Murray, it was time “to pull out a few photos and hear some untold truths.”

Murray, a veteran sports reporter, was never on the staff of the program, but his quest to track down the people smuggler who helped his family escape from communist Hungary fifty-seven years ago featured in a Dateline story aired in 2011. The young man in question, Guyla, held the hands of Murray and his little brother as he guided them across the Austro-Hungarian border on a winter’s night so dark they were able to pass unseen under towers manned by guards with machine guns. Although Guyla himself was not to be found, Murray succeeded in tracking down his grandson and buying him a beer.

It’s a wistful story, told quietly at a measured pace, and its mix of historical and contemporary relevance makes it a well-chosen framing device. Other stories revisited were more fraught, more tragic and more dangerous. There was Olivia Rousset’s interview with Abu Mann, who spent eleven months being humiliated and tortured in Abu Ghraib; Sophie McNeill’s encounter with surviving members of an Afghan family who lost four children in a mistakenly targeted night raid by Australian soldiers in February 2009; David O’Shea caught in crossfire during the wholesale massacre of civilians in East Timor in 2006; and Nick Lazaredes visiting the crash scene following the downing of MH17 in August this year…

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