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.

Refugees detained after Trump ‘executive order’

There has been immediate collateral damage after US immigration has acted on an executive order signed by President Trump putting an immediate stop to refugees from seven Muslim countries. Some refugees in transit when the order was signed have been detained at US airports.

And a department of Homeland spokeswoman has advised that the ban on entry also applies to green card holders (legal permanent US residents) trying to enter the US.

BBC: Trump executive order: Refugees detained at US airports

Entry to the US for nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries has been stopped for 90 days by Donald Trump.

The exact implications of his order remain unclear. The US State Department has told the BBC it is working on the immediate implementation of the ban.

People fleeing Syria are banned until further notice.

The other countries affected are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The two Iraqi refugees detained in New York, one of whom had worked as a US Army interpreter, were in transit when the executive order was signed on Friday.

The National Immigration Law Centre (NILC) told the BBC that it was suing President Trump and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

It described the two Iraqis as “courageous Haneed Khalid Darweesh, who interpreted for US army & Haider Sameer Alshawi also targeted for aiding US military”.

That appears to mean that people with permanent resident status who were out of the country when the order was signed may not be allowed into the US.

The executive order includes the following measures:

  • The suspension of the entire US refugee admissions programme for 120 days
  • A ban on all refugees from Syria until “significant changes” are made
  • A 90-day suspension on anyone arriving from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, except certain visa categories such as diplomats
  • Priority for future refugee applications from those persecuted for their religion – but only if the person is part of a minority religion in their home country
  • A cap of 50,000 refugees in 2017 – less than half of the upper limit under Barack Obama

Mr Trump signed the order on Friday, which was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The president’s statement to mark that occasion, on the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism.

This just popped up on my Twitter feed:

Marama Davidson’s Gaza stunt

Green MP Marama Davidson will have gone to join a boat trying to defy the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza knowing very well that being detained was very likely. It has happened before, and lining up to be detain is a well known way of achieving publicity.

So is a show of concern for her situation genuine? Or is it playing the game some more?

Is Davidson an activist or a Member of Parliament?

Newshub: Concern for MP Marama Davidson detained by Israeli Navy

The group that sent Marama Davidson to Gaza to join humanitarian protests is worried about the lack of contact with the Green MP.

Kia Ora Gaza spokesman Roger Fowler says they haven’t heard from her since Zaytouna-Olivia, her peace flotilla boat bound for Gaza, was intercepted by the Israeli Navy.

“It was largely expected, because that’s the behaviour of the Israeli regime,” he told Newshub. “They’ve got a long track record of treating people in such a brutal and arrogant manner.”

That confirms the obvious, what happened was largely expected.

Kia Ora Gaza fundraised for Marama to join the Women’s Peace Boat to Gaza protest, dedicated to breaking the Israeli siege. She left New Zealand last month to join 12 other women on the flotilla.

Did they pay for her airfares to get there? Her wages are paid for by New Zealand taxpayers.

“We are concerned,” says Mr Fowler. “All communication has been cut ever since the boat was intercepted about 53 miles away from Gaza. It’s hard to know what Marama and the other women are going through.”

Israel says some of the boat’s occupants were already known to the authorities there, and have been deported. The others, including Ms Davidson, have been taken to Ashdod for processing. They are expected to be deported once that is complete.

I think that’s normal procedure…

“We’re asking our Government to demand the Israeli authorities release these women so they can carry on their journey to Gaza,” says Mr Fowler.

…so this is nothing but posturing.

Prime Minister John Key said it was a “less than perfect” look for a New Zealand MP to be detained, but warnings from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade “fall on deaf ears when it comes to that kind of protests from the Greens”.

It’s probably a near perfect look for the Green Party and for Kia Ora Gaza.

But Al Jazeera coverage doesn’t even mention Davidson, In Gaza’s women flotilla ‘challenging Israel’s blockade’

The 13 women participating on this leg of the journey hail from a variety of countries: Norway, Sweden, Australia, Egypt, Tunisia, Malaysia, Israel, the United States and Canada.

Nor in Israel intercepts boat seeking to break Gaza blockade:

Thirteen women, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, were travelling aboard the Zaytouna-Oliva sailboat in the Mediterranean towards Gaza, which is run by Hamas.

The Zaytouna-Oliva set sail from Barcelona in September and was carrying women of various nationalities in addition to Maguire, a Northern Ireland activist.

Dubbed the “Women’s Boat to Gaza”, it is part of the wider Freedom Flotilla Coalition that consists of pro-Palestinian boats that regularly seek to go to Gaza to try to break the blockade.

Maguire has been to Gaza by boat a number of times already, and has been deported by the Israelis already. Wilipedia:

On 28 September 2010, Maguire landed in Israel as part of a delegation of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. She was refused an entry visa by Israeli authorities on the grounds that she had twice in the past tried to run Israel’s naval embargo of the Gaza Strip and that a 10-year exclusion order was in effect against her.

So being detained and deported this time is fairly predictable.

Ms Davidson and others on board pre-recorded videos in the event they were captured. In hers, Ms Davidson calls the Israeli Navy the “oppression forces”.

Her visit to Israel is not likely to be for long.

Davidson’s new role as an international activist is not likely to have done much to improve  Green Party support, and it raises questions about their priorities in in New Zealand.

No delight in Turkish situation

The reaction by President Erdogan to last week’s failed coup attempt continues.

NZ Herald: Turkey seizes over 2,250 institutions in post-coup crackdown

Erdogan told France 24 on Saturday that Turkey has no choice but to impose stringent security measures, after the attempted coup that killed about 290 people and was put down by loyalist forces and protesters.

Some of the measures:

  • imposed a three-month state of emergency
  • seized more than 2,250 social, educational or health care institutions and facilities that it claims pose a threat to national security
  • detained or dismissed tens of thousands of people in the military, the judiciary, the education system and other institutions
  • mass dismissals of Turkish teachers
  • closure of hundreds of schools
  • patients at hospitals are being seized and will be transferred to state hospitals
  • the Turkish treasury and a state agency that regulates foundations have taken over more than 1,200 foundations and associations, about 1,000 private educational institutions and student dormitories, 35 health care institutions, 19 labor groups and 15 universities
  • those dismissed cannot work in the public sector and cannot work for private security firms
  • suspects can be detained without charge up to 30 days
  • all detainees’ communications with their lawyers can be monitored upon order of the public prosecutor’s office

From Al Jazeera: Turkey detains top Gulen aide after coup attempt

  • Turkish authorities detained on Saturday a key aide to Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Muslim cleric Turkey blames for a failed military coup attempt
  • Turkish authorities also detained a nephew of Gulen in connection to the coup attempt
  • tens of thousands of people have been detained, sacked or suspended in the wake of the failed coup, as the government vowed to “cleanse” the civl service from Gulen supporters
  • 37,500 civil servants and police officers have so far been suspended, including many from the education ministry
  • more than 10,000people detained (more than 7,000 of those are soldiers, including at least 120 generals)
  •  4,000 arrested
  • authorities would disband the elite presidential guard after detaining almost 300 of its members

Many Turks will be far from delighted.