Kiwi journalists released from Fiji jail

Three Kiwi journalists investigating a Chinese company's activities in Fiji have been released from custody.

Mark Jennings, Melanie Reid and Hayden Aull of news site Newsroom were held at Totogo police station for 13 hours. Senior Fiji police spoke to the trio and decided they had no criminal intent.

The trio visited the offices of Chinese resort developer Freesoul, seeking an interview, on Wednesday.

Freesoul has been accused of "ripping the reefs apart and created environmental damage without permits" on Malolo Island, just to the west of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu, Murphy said.

"When they went to Suva to put this to the officers of Freesoul they were told to leave, and then followed through the streets of Suva, and eventually arrested by the police and taken to jail."

They were interviewing a lawyer acting for locals affected by Freesoul's activities when they were apprehended.

Reid, the site's investigations editor, says police chiefs have invited them to meet Fijian parliamentarians later on Thursday.

"We look forward to discussing the situation at Malolo Island with them," she says.

"We have serious concerns about freedom of speech issues in Fiji so we will also raise this at our meetings with MPs."

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said his Government immediately demanded the journalists' release upon learning of their detainment.

"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.

"A full investigation into why these officers would use such heavy-handed tactics will be undertaken, and any violations of protocol or undue influence will be met with appropriate action."

He said he will meet the Newsroom journalists later on Thursday to apologise for their treatment and discuss Fiji's environmental policies.

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.

Bainimarama said Freesoul's conduct has been "deeply concerning to me personally for some time".

"As both a Fijian who treasures our environment and a global advocate for sustainable development, I share in the public's outrage."

He said the Fijian Government will urgently introduce a law in Parliament's next session to permanently ban companies that disregard the country's environmental laws.

While detained, Reid called her and her colleagues' detention "trumped up and ridiculous".

"I've worked all over the world and never been taken into custody for asking questions in a public office."

Under Fijian law, they could reportedly have been held for up to 48 hours without charge.

"Our view is that this is plainly overreach, it's an overreaction because of a complaint from a company that is very powerful up there, and may find the attention awkward and uncomfortable," Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy says.

"But this is not how things should work in a democracy and a normal open society."

Jennings, Reid and Aull are all former MediaWorks employees. Jennings ran the newsroom when it operated under the name 3 News, Reid was an investigative reporter on shows 60 Minutes and 3rd Degree, and Aull was a camera operator.