An Australian journalist who was kidnapped and freed by Iraqi militants drew fierce criticism yesterday for suggesting that the executions of British and US hostages were understandable. \nJohn Martinkus was seized in Baghdad last Saturday and held for about 24 hours before being freed. The 35-year-old reporter was released after his captors looked up his name on the Internet and accepted that he was a freelance journalist rather than someone working for the US-led coalition. He sparked outrage among government officials and former hostages when he said his captors would not kill people indiscriminately. \n"These guys, they're not stupid. They are fighting a war but they're not savages. They're not actually killing people willy-nilly. There was no reason for them to kill me," Martinkus told reporters on his arrival at Sydney airport on Tuesday. \n"There was a reason to kill [British hostage Kenneth] Bigley, there was a reason to kill the [two] Americans. There was not a reason to kill me," he added. \nForeign Minister Alexander Downer expressed outrage at the comments, saying Martinkus should not "give comfort" to Iraqi insurgents by saying their actions were understandable. \n"I just could not believe he said those things, I was just appalled," Downer told Melbourne radio station 3AW yesterday. "[It's] pretty close to the most appalling thing any Australian has said about the situation in Iraq." \nSteve Pratt, a former aid wor-ker accused of spying for the West and held captive in Yugoslavia for more than five months in 1999, said Martinkus's comments were irresponsible. \n"There is no mistaking the arrogance in his remarks -- the dis-gusting disregard for the deaths of British hostage Ken Bigley and US civilians murdered by terrorists," he wrote in a letter to The Austra-lian newspaper yesterday. \n"There is no excuse for anybody hacking those poor men's heads off. But Martinkus seems to be making excuses for their executioners," he said. \nBut Phil Martin, the head of news and current affairs at SBS, said Martinkus was traumatized and had not been given the opportunity to explain his remarks.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 percent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, the Bhutanese Ministry of Health said on Tuesday. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on Tuesday last week in a mass drive that has been hailed by the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.” Bhutan grabbed headlines in April when its government said it had inoculated about the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose
MISINFORMATION: The digital giant said there were ‘numerous’ offending videos that were removed from the channel, which has 1.85 million subscribers Sky News Australia has been banned from uploading content to YouTube for seven days after contravening its medical misinformation policies by posting numerous videos that denied the existence of COVID-19 or encouraged people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. The ban was imposed by the digital giant on Thursday afternoon, the day after the UK’s Daily Telegraph ended Alan Jones’ regular column amid controversy about his COVID-19 commentary, which included calling the New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant a village idiot on his Sky News program. YouTube has not disclosed which Sky News program the videos were from, but said there
African nations should build capacity to produce vaccines on the continent and work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that the raw materials needed to produce the inoculations are available, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said. While a waiver on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights that is being discussed at the WTO is seen as a way to improve the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s least inoculated continent, Okonjo-Iweala said that only a handful of African countries have the capacity to produce the life-saving drugs. “There [are] a handful of countries — maybe Tunisia, Morocco to some extent,
CAUSE FOR ALARM: The virus has spread through 14 provinces in just a few days despite high vaccination rates, as authorities ramp up containment measures China is confronting its broadest COVID-19 outbreak since the pathogen emerged in late 2019 after the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant broke through the country’s defenses, with cases now in 14 provinces. While the overall number of infections — more than 300 so far — is much lower than outbreaks elsewhere, the wide spread indicates that the variant has been on the loose for some time and is alarming officials who wield the strictest containment measures in the world. It is the biggest challenge for the world’s second-largest economy since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December