Fiji apology for journalists' arrest 'seems' genuine - Peters

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says Fijian leader Frank Bainimarama's apology to three detained Kiwi journalists "seems" genuine.

Mark Jennings, Melanie Reid and Hayden Aull of news site Newsroom were held at Totogo police station overnight, after being arrested while investigating a Chinese developer's alleged environmental destruction on Malolo Island.

The trio visited Freesoul offices, seeking an interview, on Wednesday. They were declined, and soon after found themselves detained.

Prime Minister Bainimarama said he immediately demanded the trio, who all used to work for Newshub owner MediaWorks, be released as soon as he found out.

"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," he said in a statement, adding that he will meet them on Thursday to apologise in person, and discuss environmental policies and concerns.

"He's been most effusive about his apology, about the need for environmental security and protection of the environment and their constitution," Peters told reporters in Wellington on Thursday.

"He seems to be enormously supportive of the rights of these three journalists to find out what was going on."

Mark Jennings and Melanie Reid.
Mark Jennings and Melanie Reid. Photo credit: File

Peters said he learned of the journalists' detention on Thursday morning.

An investigation into the officers' actions will be launched, Bainimarama said.

Freesoul is currently facing charges over its alleged destruction of the island's reef, fishing grounds and foreshore. Critics have accused the Fijian authorities of taking their time prosecuting the developer.

AUT journalism lecturer Richard Pamatatau told Newshub the incident shouldn't put people off following stories in Fiji.

"We need to keep reporting on not only the disruptive and bad things that happen there, but also on some of the good things that happen in Fiji."

Speaking before the trio's release, Pamatatau said the Fijian government is known for trying to shut down negative stories.

"It's a complex cultural situation, and rather than having some light shone on it the Government tries to shut it down - and that's the worst thing it can do."

Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy told Newshub it was "overreach" and "not how things should work in a democracy and a normal open society".

Bainimarama was elected to his most recent stint as Prime Minister in 2014. Despite Fiji's troubled politics of recent decades, the election was deemed credible by international observers.

Newshub.

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