Newsroom journalists detained by police in Fiji

Newsroom journalists detained in Fiji

Three Newsroom journalists were detained by police in Suva, Fiji, last night after trying to interview a controversial Chinese resort developer accused of environmental desecration of an island in the tourist jewel of the Mamanucas.

Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings, investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull were held overnight at the main Suva police station after developer Freesoul Real Estate accused them of criminal trespass.

The journalists had visited Freesoul’s Suva offices seeking an interview but been told to leave. Hours later, while they interviewed a lawyer acting for villagers of the damaged Malolo Island, Fijian police located their rental car and arrived and escorted them to the police station for questioning.

Reid said: “We walked into the Freesoul office in Suva with a camera and asked why they had been operating at Malolo with no permits. We asked to talk to Freesoul director Dickson Peng. We were told to leave and we did.”

Later, after Freesoul staff had been interviewed at the police station, officers told Reid, Jennings and Aull they would be held overnight.

“This is trumped up and ridiculous,” said Reid, a veteran current affairs journalist named reporter of the year at the national media awards last year.

“I’ve worked all over the world and never been taken into custody for asking questions in a public office – questions, I might add, that desperately needed to be asked.”

Without being sure of knowing the full story it’s difficult to judge the actions of the journalists, but taking them into custody for two days with charges pending does seem quite unusual, and potentially chilling.

The lawyer for the villagers, Ken Chambers, who was talking to the Newsroomteam when police located them, said last night the journalists could be held for up to 48 hours before being charged.

“They walked into a public office and could be charged with criminal trespass. It is sort of like a sledgehammer to crack a nut to put them through a 48-hour holding pattern and use the letter of the law to give the Chinese some payback.”

Chambers said the Malolo Island issue “has been really a focus on how the Chinese are interfacing in Fiji”.

There has been more focus on Chinese are interfacing in New Zealand after Jacinda Ardern’s trip to China.

Reuters: Don’t discriminate against our firms, China’s Xi tells New Zealand

President Xi Jinping called upon New Zealand on Monday not to discriminate against Chinese companies during a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country has rejected a bid by Chinese telecom giant Huawei to build a 5G mobile network.

Ties with China have been tense under Ardern’s government which has openly raised concerns about Beijing’s growing influence in the South Pacific.

Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Ardern that China has always regarded New Zealand as “a sincere friend and partner”.

Both countries must deepen mutual trust and understanding, seek common ground while putting aside differences, and respect each other’s major concerns, Xi said, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.

“China is willing to continue to support strong companies to invest in New Zealand, and New Zealand should provide a fair, just, non-discriminatory operating environment for Chinese companies,” it paraphrased Xi as saying.

The detaining of New Zealand journalists in Fiji over the actions of a Chinese company investing in a Fijian resort may add to the tensions.

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  1. Gezza

     /  4th April 2019

    Xi’s entreaty looks to me like the classic warning & threat from a very powerful country or Empire bent on exerting its power & influence, dressed up in the niceities of flowery diplomatic language, which leaders & ambassadors excel at.

    “If you want our money and markets, keep your nose out of our business, & don’t work against us.”

    There are clear instances already, notably in Africa, to show that Chinese companies’ assistance & investment come with the condition that if you can’t make your repayments we will take control of your asset & run it for you, for your benefit but primarily for ours, because now we have you at a disadvantage.

    The US often does but the same, but through a looser & less direct political connection to private companies. Once US business has a significant foothold in a country, it is subject to US pressure to “protect American security & interests”.

    “America First – everywhere”, so bluntly asserted by Trump, is running up against “China First – wherever we can” diplomatically asserted by Xi.

    Both countries’ international diplomatic & economic relations carry with them the threat of the exertion of economic & military power.

    Very tricky negotiating the way between them when we want their money or their favours.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  4th April 2019
    • Gezza

       /  4th April 2019

      Jonesy. Mike Hosking but with a lot more money & a flair for punching his opinion into your face.

    • Blazer

       /  4th April 2019

      Good yarn.Jones of course was a hypocrite writ large.

      • Gezza

         /  4th April 2019

        That’s the great thing about hypocrisy. Anyone who accuses others of it always shows it themselves. It’s a universal blind spot.

        • Duker

           /  4th April 2019

          I had to chuckle about Jones referring himslef to the ‘First Citizen of the Provinces’ – remember that little thing we had the other day about Comrade and its origin in French revolution era , which was of course when they used ‘Citizen’ as well.
          How very revolutionary of Jones to wave his tricolour in front of Hosking

          • Gezza

             /  4th April 2019

            Shane makes me grin a lot. He’s certainly borrowed from Winston’s song book to create his own brand as a populist & joker, but he lacks Winston’s legal training & more nuanced grasp of the limits of the law & what he can get away with saying. He stands out from the rest of the NZF crew, as he obviously intended to do & has reinvented himself with a new public persona.

            I find it hard to read his electoral appeal at the moment. I’d trust him about as much as I’d trust Winston. Possibly less, if that’s possible, given that Winston’s always been at the bottom of my Politician Trust Meter.

          • Gezza

             /  4th April 2019

            But you realise that the Jones Al, Blazer & I were discussing above is Sir Bob, not Shane, I hope?


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