Fiji PM to apologise for 'group of rogue officers' who jailed Kiwi journalists overnight

Source: 1News

The Prime Minister of Fiji is expected to apologise to three New Zealand journalists jailed overnight.

After hearing about the trio being detained in Suva, the Fijian government immediately demanded their release, PM Frank Bainimarama said in a statement today.

Newsroom   co-editor Mark Jennings, investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull had been  questioned  by police for criminal trespass. They have since been released without charge.

The group was trying to interview a controversial Chinese resort developer accused of environmental desecration of an island in the tourist jewel of the Mamanucas, according to the online publication.

Mr Bainimarama said the company, Freesoul Real Estate Development, was already under investigation for breaches of the Environment Management Act of 2005 but had continued to "act in ways that demand the highest levels of public scrutiny".

"I understand these journalists were present in Fiji to report on the recent charges we’ve brought against Freesoul Real Estate Development," he said. "It should be made clear: the news media has been an ally in accountability, helping to expose the company’s illegal environmental destruction.

"I have spoken with the Commissioner for Police who has assured me the detention of these journalists was an isolated incident undertaken by a small group of rogue officers."

The police officers themselves were being investigated for their actions, Mr Bainimarama said.

"A full investigation into why these officers would use such heavy-handed tactics will be undertaken, and any violations of protocol or undue influence will be met with appropriate action."

The conduct of the company being investigated had been "deeply concerning" to the Prime Minister for some time, he added.

"As both a Fijian who treasures our environment and a global advocate for sustainable development, I share in the public’s outrage," he said. "We need to send a strong message to Freesoul Real Estate Development, and other developers looking to cause us harm.

"We will continue to walk the talk, for the sake of our environment, for the sake of our way of life, and for the sake of all those who come after us."

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters told media today the three journalists were taken to restaurant and given a meal - not like "normal detention".

"They have been removed from where they are, they are going to be the subject of a personal apology from the Prime Minister of Fiji Bainimarama. So how much further can we go?"

Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning he spoke to Reid last night before her phone was taken away.

"Unfortunately, the police are being used, I think, to make a point - to basically intimidate and tell journalists there and here and elsewhere to back off," Murphy said. "It's obviously to make a point and a statement."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was advised of their situation this morning and assured they were receiving support.

"New Zealand defends the freedom of the press," she said.