Iraqi militants who kidnapped and threatened to kill an Australian journalist did a Google search for his name on the internet to check his work before releasing him unharmed.
John Martinkus, a veteran freelancer who has covered conflicts from East Timor to Iraq, was released yesterday, a day after he was taken hostage by four Sunni militants and ex-Iraqi army officers.
Martinkus was filming a report for SBS's Dateline program and was preparing to leave Iraq when he was grabbed about 5pm (AEST) on Saturday outside a hotel popular with foreign correspondents.
SBS executive producer Mike Carey today said the journalist's captors had investigated his background online and saw he was harmless.
"They Googled him, they checked him out on a popular search engine and got onto his own website or his publisher's website and saw he was a writer and journalist," Carey said.
"They had thought he was working for the Americans as an informer."
In this case, modern technology probably saved his life, he said. "It certainly did help," Carey said.