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.

Premature announcement – Newsroom

Tim Murphy and Mark Jennings had already  indicated they were working on a new media venture, but now more details have emerged so they have gone with a premature announcement.

StopPress: ‘Well, that’s one way to announce your arrival’

Newsroom, a new independent and high quality news and current affairs website we are launching soon, made its public debut yesterday via the grand and important forum of the website of the New Zealand Commerce Commission.

News of the venture that Mark Jennings, ex head of news and current affairs at TV3, and I are forming was included in documents lodged with the Commission by the two applicants for #StuffMe, Fairfax and NZME, to support their argument that their merger won’t harm plurality of journalistic voices.

To use the old tabloid ‘screamer’ headline: ‘It’s Official!’ is our planned site and brand. We’ve gathered some top editors, digital journalists and video experts and we have what we think is a sustainable and high-appeal answer to filling a gap in the journalism market for Real News. Internally, we’re calling our content target the ‘Things that Matter’.

It will use fresh digital and social media approaches – will be optimised for mobile consumers – and be classy, calm and contemporary. Newsroom will feature video news and current affairs prominently and cleverly.

It will be targeted at an audience that in broad terms we’ve defined as New Zealanders who care. News hounds. People who vote. People aware of the needs of good journalism in a democracy like ours.

There have been many calls for better journalism in contrast to the tabloidisation of the ‘mainstream media’, which in a reaction to diving advertising revenue have moved towards trivial clickbait based headlines.

Time will tell whether there is a market for it.

Our plan is actually two plans: a direct specialist news service for paying subscribers called Newsroom Pro, and an open public site for quality journalism called which will be funded by four to five revenue streams including corporate sponsors as founding supporters.

So it will partly be free, partly subscription. Fair enough. But how many people are prepared to pay for more and better news?

There are already subscription news and political commentary services available, such as NBR, Politik and Trans Tasman. So far I have resisted paying for any of them. For me there’s just not enough extra to justify the cost.

We are working with the outstanding journalist and digital news activist Bernard Hickey to add his separately successful daily feed of economics and political news to the Newsroom Pro offering. Then we will add three or four more experienced journalists and additional subject areas to provide a comprehensive paid content offering.

Newsroom Pro will cover Economics and trade, Politics and policy, Environment and Sustainability, Energy and Technology when it is launched in February when the business and political world returns to work.

Newsroom aims to fill an unmet need for an independent, scalable and substantial provider of news and analysis on the things that matter to New Zealanders.

The subscription service is one half of that plan. Those who are prepared to pay for the private benefit of expert news will also be supporting the other half, the public good of an open, free and general interest news website.

Our focus will be on news.

I think that there is more of a lack of in depth investigation.

We will be rigorous in weeding out fake news.

As any reputable news outlet should be – it’s good to know they won’t make stuff up  or repeat overseas crap but it shouldn’t have to be said, it should just be.

New Zealanders want quality, real news and analysis. It need not and will not be dull. Experienced and high-profile journalists will work to put things in context, but in an appealing, interpretative style.

Some New Zealanders. Enough to want to pay for it? The big question.

We identified 33 subject areas we believe the major media players have been forced to withdraw from covering in any detail or depth because of the cuts to staffing and capability forced on them by digital disruption taking away their advertising dollars and readers.

We’ve narrowed that to about nine to ten main areas of things that matter – subjects we think New Zealanders want to see examined fairly and calmly and in depth.

We will work with the peerless international news agency, the Associated Press, and other partners to bring global issues that matter to a New Zealand audience.’s journalism will be independent – politically non-partisan, not part of the big four of Fairfax, NZME, Mediaworks or TVNZ, and with editorial independence resting solely with the co-editors.  We’ll have an advisory board to keep us to our task.

Our audience work has helped us define who we think will read and watch us. We aim to serve those aged 25 plus (and not stopping in their mid 50s) who care enough to vote, read, debate and share serious views and news.

Odd to specify an age range and virtually rule out young people who are leading the transformation of how we view news.

“Who care enough to vote, read, debate and share serious views and news” – a shrinking market?

We’re an alternative.  Focused on news.

We want to add to all of their work by creating a sustainable twin-pillar model for quality and independent New Zealand news. And to provide them some competition along the way.

But we’re going to give it a go in the quality news market.  There has been wonderful, unprompted, support from people way beyond the journalism or media bubble who think there is a need…. and want Newsroom to succeed.

Good to see them have a go. I wish them well and hope they succeed. When I see how much they charge for a subscription – will they aim for mass market or go elite/expensive? – I’ll consider supporting Newsroom with my money.