Fiji police release three Kiwi journalists after detaining them overnight in jail

Three New Zealand journalists detained by Fijian police in Suva overnight, accused of criminal trespass, have been released without charge.

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Tim Murphy said co-editor Mark Jennings, investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull have done nothing wrong. Source: Breakfast

Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings, investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull were held overnight at the main Suva police station, according to the online publication. 

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

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.

Reid said the incident was "an overreach by the company", which is powerful in Fiji, according to Murphy.

"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."

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The trio, from online publication Newsroom, were investigating a controversial Chinese resort developer. Source: Breakfast

There is a 48-hour period the trio can be held without being charged.

The team are fine but the cells are "pretty grim", Murphy said. They are expected to have police interviews this morning.

"It is the case that New Zealand journalists have been hassled and harassed, and even locked up there [in Fiji]," he said.

The three journalists had visited Freesoul's Suva offices seeking an interview but had been told to leave, Newsroom reported.

Hours later, while they interviewed a lawyer acting for villagers of the damaged Malolo Island, Fijian police located their rental car and escorted them to the police station for questioning.

"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," Reid told Newsroom. "This is trumped up and ridiculous."

Reid is a veteran current affairs journalist, and was also 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," she told Newsroom.

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Barbara Dreaver talks to Breakfast live from Fiji, having been allowed back into the country. Source: Breakfast

It's not the first time Kiwi journalists have been detained in Fiji. In 2008, TVNZ Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver spent hours in a detention centre after highlighting poverty in a Fijian village. She was then banned from the country for eight years.

Dreaver returned in 2016 to interview PM Frank Bainimarama.