October 24, 2004
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SBS Television says John Martinkus would not be speaking to the media on the issue. Instead, the station's Director of News would be taking over.
So here’s SBS Director of News Phil Martin explaining Martinkus to the ABC’s Edmond Roy:
PHIL MARTIN: The first thing I'd say is that a lot of what John has said has been taken out of context. Now, I know this is fairly repulsive to a lot of people, but these groups view anyone who's deemed to be working with or for the Coalition, no matter how insignificant their role is, as a target.
EDMOND ROY: Could, as Alexander Downer says, could the terrorists take some comfort from what John Martinkus's statements, that perhaps they have good reason to be beheading certain people and so on?
PHIL MARTIN: Well, I don't think that that's what John was saying. I think… look, his suggestion that Kenneth Bigley or any other of the hostages were somehow deserving of their fate was incorrect. John's views are that these killings are monstrous acts, and he's got nothing but sympathy for the victims of these atrocities and their families.
Well, that’s all cleared up then. Further clarification is offered by another journalist working in Iraq, Christopher Allbritton:
We're not sure what all happened during his captivity, but he was able to persuade his captors that he was an Australian and a friend to the resistance and not to the Americans.
Hmmm. Among several puzzling aspects of this story is the original claim -- made by Martinkus's producer -- that Martinkus had been saved by Google. Yet Martinkus, in his SBS interview with Mark Davis, wasn't certain of this:
MARK DAVIS: You said they checked on the Internet to see what you’d written. Could you literally see them at the computer or they were coming and going?
JOHN MARTINKUS: No, it was basically the leader who came and conducted that first interrogation whilst I was blindfolded. He went away and then they came back in and they took the blindfolds off and then they left, left us there. And then they came back about half an hour later and he’d obviously done some checking. He didn’t come back himself, but he sent a message back to the other people who were looking after me that I was actually - I was who I said I was and that I wasn’t a spy and I didn’t work for any of the - any of the contractors or any of the security services.
The "people who were looking after me"? Anyway, here’s another extract from Allbritton, who says his report is as related by Martinkus:
At one point, one man disappeared, saying he would check out John's story. He came back after about 15 minutes, John said, convinced John was who he said he was. We suspect they Googled John, because they referenced previous stories he had covered.
So the much-reported Google angle is nothing more than a suspicion; Martinkus doesn't know if the kidnappers even had a computer, much less their search-engine preferences. There are a couple of small differences between the two accounts (15 minutes/30 minutes, the checker returning/the checker not returning) but we’ll let those slide. More interesting is that Allbritton writes:
John's captors said they received a phone call that he was on the move and that the time for taking him was now. This fits in with our intelligence that there are kidnap teams up and down Jadirya Street looking for us. His captors said they had penetrated the staff at the Hamra Hotel, where many of us live. They have people in the compound watching us. They know who we are ...
If they knew who Martinkus was, wouldn’t they have Googled him before they kidnapped him?Posted by Tim Blair at October 24, 2004 02:09 AM