November 01, 2004


Got a call on Friday night from John Martinkus. A very angry John Martinkus.

We had an interesting, not entirely hostile conversation. Martinkus was furious that I'd described as puzzling several aspects of his abduction; I replied that, well, some aspects were puzzling. For example: why no attempt to lock the doors as kidnappers approached his car? His answer: there was an attempt. The early '80s Mercedes had driver-operated central locking, which the driver failed to operate. Martinkus was screaming at him to lock the doors. In his panic, the driver simply didn't.

I asked Martinkus if he'd been struck during his struggle with the gunman in his car (there is no mention in any account I've read of Martinkus being hit, which seemed odd given he was outnumbered and trying to wrest a gun from one of his attackers). Turns out he was hit, and at a crucial moment; the blow caused him to lose his grip on the gunman's hands, ending his attempt to grab the weapon. In earlier interviews, Martinkus explained, he'd been exhausted. An understandable lack of clarity resulted.

Martinkus is opposed to the war and is sympathetic to what he describes as the "resistance"; I find this abhorrent, which is as he finds my pro-war views. He now rejects his post-capture comments, however, as "wrong" and said in "the heat of the moment". Fair enough. I apologised to Martinkus for causing him any hurt, but do not agree with his assertion that, because I haven’t been to Iraq, I'm not qualified to question his reporting -- or, by implication, the reporting of any other journalist based in Iraq. This applies especially in the case of journalists who are also activists (a category Martinkus would argue does not include himself). Soldiers and military leaders are far more involved than journalists in the Iraq conflict, and their actions and statements are routinely questioned by journalists and commentators.

For a more expansive account of Martinkus's capture and release, read his piece in this week's Bulletin (subscription required).

Posted by Tim Blair at November 1, 2004 01:41 AM

Journalists pride themselves on their objectivity. Since Mr. Martinkus claims to be a journalist, and yet has clearly taken sides, why should we trust anything he reports? I decline the invitation to subscribe and read, thank you.

Posted by: Rebecca at November 1, 2004 at 01:54 AM

So they've had time to read all the comments and get the NEW story straight. Color me unimpressed.

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 1, 2004 at 01:56 AM

I should have been more clear. Mr. Martinkus has taken sides with the likes of the Baathists and al-Sadr and al-Zaqawri. And that is why he cannot be trusted.

Posted by: Rebecca at November 1, 2004 at 01:57 AM

"Driver operated central locking"? I've never heard of such a thing. Perhaps what he means is there was a button on the driver's side door that operated all the locks as well as one on each door. Such buttons are easily accessible, and in fact in the early-80s model Toyota Camry I used to drive I'd often hit the thing by mistake. I don't see why Martinkus couldn't have at least locked his own door (that would not have stopped the kidnappers from getting in through other unlocked doors but still) or perhaps the driver ("panic", uh huh) had no intention of locking the doors.

Then again, I know very little about Mercedeses, early-80s or otherwise; for all I know they could have had only one way to control all the door locks and the button could have been placed under the seat or something. Yeah. That's got to be it.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 1, 2004 at 02:03 AM

I'm sorry, but this abduction story just sounds totally bogus. It didn't sound likely in the first place and his changing details just renders it more unbelieveable.

Posted by: bkayel at November 1, 2004 at 02:15 AM

To be fair, these aren't "changing details"; they're additional details.

Posted by: tim at November 1, 2004 at 02:22 AM

Yeah, it does sound truly bogus. Never mind the fact that by the supporting the so-called insurgents he is condeming others to a similar (alledged) fate.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at November 1, 2004 at 02:25 AM

You're a fairer man than I am, Gunga Tim.

Posted by: EvilPundit at November 1, 2004 at 02:35 AM

Brief OT 'jacking — Kerry Kid Calls Bush Cokehead

We now return you to your topic—

Tim — Additional "details" in response to a LOT of skepticism and doubt, here and elsewhere. And best yet, details that are difficult to verify, except for the secret doorlock button...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 1, 2004 at 02:38 AM

My 8 year old Ford station wagon has driver operated central locking, no idea what other vehicles have it, certainly the Germans are very quick off the mark with technological advancements. FYI Andrea. However I don't swallow a word of Martinkus' drivel.

Posted by: Steve at the pub at November 1, 2004 at 02:42 AM

I appreciate your fairness, here, tim, and I'm glad to see these additional points being brought out.

And I think that Martinkus has a right to be angry; he's being portrayed as a unobjective, left leaning manipulative "journalist". An activist in journos clothing, you might say, a description with which he does not agree.

But the truth can hurt, especially when you've been hiding it from yourself. And that, I think, is the real reason why John is not happy.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at November 1, 2004 at 02:46 AM

"Martinkus is opposed to the war and is sympathetic to what he describes as the "resistance" "

I saw the story Martinkus did in Iraq on SBS. He had footage his "resistance" giving Kalishnakovs to 5 year old kids. Im also "sypathetic to them, as in i feel sory for them.

Posted by: Troy at November 1, 2004 at 02:50 AM

He very likely never was forced out of his own car. He was probably calmly escorted into the insurgents hands.

1981 Mercedes did have a central locking system tho. The driver had control over both locks. Pretty stupid idea for a locking system, but it did exist.

Posted by: Josh at November 1, 2004 at 03:00 AM

There are some 'fair enough' aspects in Martinkus's account.

But Iraq is now a sovereign nation again, recognised as such under international law. There can be no 'insurgency', no 'resistance', no 'minute-men.' What we see in that country are murderers, terrorists and gangsters. Most of them hide behind religion, not unlike Sicilian mafiosi.

Sure, Martinkus deserves the opportunity to clarify the vagueries surrounding his original kidnapping story.

But if he feels justly proud of his willingness to go to Iraq he should also take manfully the criticism that, objectively speaking, the way he's calling this war and the side he's taking say very little about his wisdom or his maturity.

War correspondent Neil Davis made these words famous: "Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife; throughout the sensual world proclaim; one crowded hour of glorious life; is worth an age without a name."

Stirring sentiments and all too applicable to the sometimes narcissistic world of the foreign correspondent. Martinkus got his crowded hour, as did Robert Fisk (plus rocks).

The problem is Iraq's restoration isn't about 'one crowded hour'; it's about generations of healing. Many journalists are not interested in this slow, tedious, unreportable effluxion of time. They want to make a splash (or make up a splash - see Paul McGeough), see a splash and report a splash.

Sorry John. But if you prefer giving sympathy to butchers before recognising this fundamental truth than you may as well be reporting Iraq from home. That'd have the added advantage of keeping you (and others who become responsible for you) out of trouble.

Welcome home. Thank God your safe.

Posted by: C.L. at November 1, 2004 at 03:43 AM

I'd be interested to know what John's views are with respect to Thomas Hamill who after being kidnapped was interviewed by an SBS (or was it ABC?) news crew. In his book Hamill describes his anger 1) at their attempts to interview him given 2) His suspicion that the crew had been tipped off about the attack and so were effectively taking part in his kidnapping. The crew said later I think that they were just drawn towards smoke, but I wonder. Was John one of the reporters who shoved a microphone in Hamill’s face. How does he feel about the rights and wrongs of this now?

Posted by: Giles at November 1, 2004 at 04:15 AM

It was an ABC crew Giles, & it was Peter Cave who interviewed the captured Thomas Hamill in the terrorists car. There is no reason to believe that Peter Cave & his crew had the faintest idea what they would encounter. There is no reason for ANYBODY to believe that Peter Cave & his crew were in cahoots with the enemy. Should it transpire that I am wrong, I will buy dinner for Tim & anybody he cares to nominate, at Tsetsuya's, or any other restaurant in Sydney. However, if I am wrong & have to buy such dinner, I shall immediately go gunning for Cave & any other ABC staffer Quisling who was in the know.

Posted by: Steve at the pub at November 1, 2004 at 04:56 AM

At the very least, the fact that Martinkus was unable to give a consistent account of what happened to him or his views on same, must totally discredit his claims to journalistic professionalism. Amateurish high-school stuff.

Anyone who hires him now must be an idiot or a raving partisan (too many of those, sadly...)

Perhaps a new career as a poet, or fiction writer?

- I still want to know why no-one knew he was 'kidnapped' till he emerged and said so. Is it because he has a habit of wandering off on his own, and his associates are used to this? This makes his SBS boss's claim that they closely monitored his security sound quite empty.

Posted by: Bruce at November 1, 2004 at 06:49 AM

'heat of the moment' indeed.

So Martinkus is angry?

Aren't journalists trained to report the facts and ignore their personal feelings? Especially in a crisis?

If not, then we're all 'Jounalists'. A free-for-all. Why shouldn't I be hired by SBS to vent my feelings too?

Posted by: Bruce at November 1, 2004 at 06:58 AM

I think SBS should restrict Martinkus travel to St Leonard's where he can do less harm. Give him drink vouchers and set him up in a pub where he can file his reports after watching CNN.Same result,less tax payer subsidy.Maybe he could have a nice chat to Steve.

Posted by: gubbaboy at November 1, 2004 at 07:04 AM

I think both Martinkus and his SBS boss should be sacked for the way they fumbled this.

Its been Keystone cops stuff.

And then they lied to cover up their mistakes. 'We were closely monitoring his movements'.

Posted by: Bruce at November 1, 2004 at 07:20 AM

I'd forgotten about Neil Davis until you mentioned him. A shame on me for not bringing him to mind. But when judging current journalistic standards against Davis performance where’s the comparison?

Posted by: Lofty at November 1, 2004 at 09:19 AM

"There is no reason for ANYBODY to believe that Peter Cave & his crew were in cahoots with the enemy."

I was just quoting Hamill's biography - he is an ANYBODY and that's what he believed. ABC disagreed and said it was smoke not a tipoff that attracted them. So theres a dispute and there is a reason for some people to ask questions since journalists have been known to embed with the terrorists - e.g. the French crew that filmed the attempt to shoot down the DHL plane.

Posted by: Giles at November 1, 2004 at 09:53 AM

Apart from the vomit - inducing spectacle of "journalists" from a free society taking sides with fascist murdering scum, there is the irrefutable proof that they are lying and spinning their reporting for their own safety and to gain access to their sources.
CNN admitted softening stories from Baghdad so that Saddam let them stay and Reuters recently let it be known that they were uncomfortable with stories hostile to terrorists, or even calling them terrorists, as it may endanger their correspondents.
Moral pygmies like Martinkus, SBS, The ABC and Fairfax should be challenged at every point in their reporting from Iraq.
It just reeks of degenerate hypocrisy to continually infer that mass murdering "insurgents" have any legitimacy while questioning the legitimacy of freely-elected Western Governments.

Posted by: waz at November 1, 2004 at 10:58 AM

Tim's being stalked by a leftie journalist? Tell him to keep his car doors locked Andrea.

Posted by: Arty at November 1, 2004 at 11:11 AM

Martinkus is for the terrorists and then objects to their ways when he is involved? Seems he has some growing up to do.

Posted by: Thom at November 1, 2004 at 11:17 AM

In the fond hope that Martinkus is reading the comments, you're scum, Martinkus. Next time I hope the Americans kidnap you, decide you're not on their side, and do what the Saddamites would have done if they'd come to the same decision. On TV, for all to see on Al-Jazeera. If scum like you had their way, Saddam would still be in power and continuing on his killing spree. You're a traitor to freedom and hope.

Posted by: Paul Johnson at November 1, 2004 at 11:28 AM

I have 3 questions for Martinkus:-

Who can verify he was abducted?
Who can verify that this "abduction" took place outside the Australian Embassy in Iraq?
Who had ever heard of Martinkus before his claim to be abducted?

Until I have answers to at least the first 2 questions I look upon this whole sad saga as a load of crap that only the SBS (and Aunty of course) would inflict on us.

Posted by: Lawrie at November 1, 2004 at 11:30 AM

What manner of person can step over the hopes of 25 million suffering people, and side with the butchers and mass murderers that want to return them to savagery?
I can't even fathom the twisted mindset Martinkus, and others like him must have.
But, like Paul Johnson above, I do know a dog when I see one.

Posted by: truss at November 1, 2004 at 12:20 PM

Why would John be worried anyway? As Richard Neville pointed out - these beheadings are simply staged CIA hoaxes.

Posted by: Hazza at November 1, 2004 at 01:16 PM

The fact that we're questioning his abduction shows one thing above anything else:

Nobody on the right trusts a left-wing journalist as far as they can throw them out of a 1981 Mercedes.

Posted by: Leigh at November 1, 2004 at 01:18 PM

"I'll show you how a Journalist dies!"

Posted by: Bluebottle at November 1, 2004 at 02:29 PM

The poster who mentions the possibility of terrorist embedded journalists raises an important point and one that need investigation.
In Sarajevo, the press intent on teh demonisation of serbs , delibaretely descrobed snipers as Serbian, when it was known and transpired later that they were Bosnians shooting their own people for the benefits of the western press.
In Kosovo, KlA jihadists who had been killed were stripped of their uniforms and presented as harmless civilians, massacred by serbian militia.
In Israel the suppose killing of Mohamed AL Dura was broadcast as the actions of the bloodthirsty IDF throughout the world and has now been exposed as a photomontage by France 2 and and it's fanatical reporters.
Now we see John Martinkus who opposes the Iraqi government and supports what he euphemistically calls the "insurgeants".
Of course the SBS is surely guilty of violation of its fair reporting charter in its employment of openly biased reporters or filmmakers.

So we are witnessing a new effect. Probably a cousin of the swedish syndrome, where hostages for reasons of survival, actually espouse the causes of their own captors. This does not happen at first but is the result of long term exposure.
I suggest that this effect is one that affects foreign journalists , who already hold left wing views and become more radical the longer they stay in these ares of conflict.
Ultimately they become mouth pieces or apologist for those terrorist groups such as Al ZAqwari's murderers.
Perhaps we could call this the ROBERT FISK syndrome ?

Posted by: davo at November 1, 2004 at 02:39 PM

Speaking of hoax hostages...human shield (until the bombs started dropping) & 'hostage victim' Donna Mulhearn (or whatever the fat c's name is) is going back to her beloved Iraq. Hopefully this time they'll chop her fat ugly traitor block off!! Can't stand the bitch....

Posted by: tricia01 at November 1, 2004 at 03:24 PM

purely out of curiosity, did any of the blusterers posting here actually watch Martinkus' report from Sadr City?

if so, i'd like to know where it was biased, where it crossed the line into propaganda for anyone involved in the incursion.

and like y'all, i would very much like to know

a) whether or not the kidnapping occurred and,
b) if it did, where was martinkus grabbed?

there would appear to be a very clear-cut case of lying - either Martinkus or Downer has been guilty of shifting the truth to suit the agenda.
the silence on that issue is deafening.

Posted by: chico o'farrill at November 1, 2004 at 03:57 PM

purely out of curiosity, did any of the blusterers posting here actually watch Martinkus' report from Sadr City?

I did.

The bit where he noted that journalists aren't usually allowed in Sadr city raised alarm bells. Why did they treat SBS differently? SBS was also the first people able to film the PKK in five years. I'm wondering why there is such a trend.

Posted by: Andjam at November 1, 2004 at 04:31 PM

: tricia01
these places are nagnets to Human shields, marxist journalist et al who see in them the salvation of being able to express their hatred for their own civilisation,.
places such as this or rammalah or sarayevo represent places of pilgrimmage, modern scular versions of the old religious sites of yesteryear.
Unlike the old days when comsorting or helping those who seek your destruction was treasonable and punishable by capital punishment, they can now freely indulge in their self hating fantasies with perhaps a slight risk of being beheaded by those they admire.
Until the terrorists do a google and reassure themselves that they are indeed haters of western capitalism.

Posted by: davo at November 1, 2004 at 04:59 PM

I also saw the story on Sadar City. The story contained information about a man killed near his car. It showed the car as well as a body later at a mourge. Martinkus voiceover concluded that the person was an innocent bystander killed by an americian missle. Both the intactness of the car and the body would surly rule out a missle. It would have been impossible to determine whether the person killed was a bystander or a fighter because the body had already been removed before his arrival. All he relied on was an eye witness, of whom we are told nothing about. Indeeed the eye witness contridicted the voiceover by saying it was a stun grenade.

The point here in not to nitpick but to point out that during his story he seemed to have healthy scepticism for what the millitary told him but presented statements from Iraqi's interviewed without questioning those statements. The whole story persented very little evidence and seemed to be clouded by his personal views. Which as he states is anti the war.

Posted by: Robin Wade at November 1, 2004 at 07:08 PM

One other example from that story was where he was travelling with an American tank patrol and he said in voiceover that the patrol was too fearful of proceeding past the next point because they always got attacked. Yet earlier he seemed criticise the American millitary for entering Sadr city and provoking attackes that resulted in the deaths of civilians. He could have come to the conclusion that the patrol didn't enter the area out of concern that it would have lead to a pointless exchange of fire and endangered civilian lives. Instead he basicly called them cowards.

Posted by: Robin Wade at November 1, 2004 at 07:29 PM

Gutless Tim Blair backs down after his own magazine shows him up as the lying hack he is, and makes an effort to report accurately instead of sitting thousands of K's away and smearing by insinuation. A humiliating backdown for Tim. Next: the Bulletin fires him for sliming Martinkus and jeopardising their best story in months.

We can only hope.

Posted by: Jason Stokes at November 1, 2004 at 07:34 PM

and makes an effort to report accurately instead of sitting thousands of K's away

Hey Jason, how was your experience as a human shield?

Posted by: PW at November 1, 2004 at 09:17 PM

Martinkus is a hack. His story is a lie. Despite that, there's joy to be had. Little Johnny Martinkus goes to bed every night sweating whether tomorrow is the day when the truth finally comes out. I'll give him till Christmas...

Posted by: Ma Tinkus at November 1, 2004 at 11:47 PM

Twistin Snivellin little creep......why oh why wernt he picked up by the Bad Guys

Posted by: cugel at November 2, 2004 at 02:20 AM

They shoulde givven him an "IRAQUI SHAVE" and sent the remnants back to that shining beacon of truth and light.........SBS

Posted by: cugel at November 2, 2004 at 02:27 AM

Hey Jason, how was your experience as a human shield?

I'm not the one who claimed to know better than his own magazine.

Posted by: Jason Stokes at November 2, 2004 at 02:55 AM

I'm not the one who claimed to know better than his own magazine.

True, you just prefer to revel in your own ignorance, like the good lefty that you are.

Posted by: PW at November 2, 2004 at 03:05 AM

A news report from the near future....

Jason Stokes found dead this morning in front of his computer at his home; an autopsy revealed that he died of an aneurysm, possibly caused by high blood pressure. The police report noted that the keys on his keyboard were broken or smashed, and that the skin on his fingertips was worn down to bare flesh.

Initially, police thought that Mr. Stokes was a certified member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, as his browser bookmarks and history showed extensive visits to conservative blogs.

However, after reviewing his postings at those blogs, police determined that Mr. Stokes was in fact a card carrying member of the Left Wing Moonbat Brigade, given the tone of his messages. This further explained the window cleaner, paper towels, and thick layers of dried saliva around the edges of his monitor, while the screen itself was clear.

Mr. Stokes final posting was to the conservative blog, where he left an incoherent message about liars, chickenhawks, and several bizzare stories relating to his extensive experience as a "human shield" during the Napoleonic Wars. (Ed. note: those wars ended in 1814 with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo by the British.)

Mr. Blair was not available for comment, but several of the regulars at the blog noted that Mr. Stokes will be missed for his entertainment value, if nothing else.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at November 2, 2004 at 06:02 AM

Stokes, what's wrong with Tim Blair having a different view to his magazine? I don't think he has been shown up to be a liar.

As to this constant "thousand of Ks away" crap.. would people get over that already? I wasn't Alive 50 years ago either, does that mean I can't know anything about the 50s? You're critiscing Tim Blair from hundreds of Ks away. You're not near him man, how can you know!? HOW CAN YOU KNOW?? Or is it that you use the knowledge you were raised with (you know, stories and records of things happening far far away) to judge him?

Btw, do you do the same with the US? Assume to know about it, its intentions and its peoples feelings? From thousands of Ks away?

Posted by: Ken at November 2, 2004 at 06:07 AM


Posted by: cugel at November 2, 2004 at 08:26 AM

It ranks up there with Kevin Spacey's "mugging" and Bob Simon's own "abduction" during Gulf 1. I'm sure Mr. Christmas In Cambodia would enjoy the support of such a like-minded fabulist.

Thank goodness such fibs are so transparent in the telling.

Posted by: Darwin Finch at November 2, 2004 at 08:29 AM


Fair question.

And my answer would be that as SBS/Martinkus have finessed their way through by speaking quietly, carrying no stick (as it were). Most media travel heavily armed/guarded etc, and also carry a degree of swagger that anyone would find suspicious and/or offensive.

One notable aspect of the Martinkus story was the very quiet, measured tone of the voiceover. I suspect he presents in a very unthreatening manner, and would be likely to engender trust more than the average reporter.

I'll not bite at the insinuation of some "media/terrorist conspiracy". Way too fruitbat.


Posted by: chico o'farrill at November 2, 2004 at 09:38 AM