Fiji PM Orders Release Of Kiwi Journos

Mr Bainimarama spoke with the Commissioner for Police who has assured that the detention of these journalists was an isolated incident undertaken by a small group of rogue officers.
04 Apr 2019 10:20
Fiji PM Orders Release Of Kiwi Journos
Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama this morning ordered the release of three New Zealand journalists who were detained by Police overnight for questioning.

“Upon learning of this situation, the Fijian Government immediately demanded their release.”

Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings, investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull are in Suva to interview Mamanuca resort developers, Freesoul Real Estate Development.

“It should be made clear: the news media has been an ally in accountability, helping to expose the company’s illegal environmental destruction. While Freesoul is already under investigation for breaches of the Environment Management Act of 2005, they have continued to act in ways that demand the highest levels of public scrutiny.

“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. 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.

“The conduct of Freesoul Real Estate Development 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.

“We need to send a strong message to Freesoul Real Estate Development, and other developers looking to cause us harm, that they are not welcome to operate in Fiji –– that message needs to be backed by law to prevent repeat offences from bad-faith developers. That is why we have  been considering a law which we will urgently  introduce in the next session of Parliament to permanently ban companies that blatantly disregard our environmental laws and protections.”

Mr Bainiamarama, the Minister for Environment and the Commissioner of Police will meet with the journalists later today to apologise for the treatment they’ve received and personally speak with them about our position on the environment, particularly with regards to development.

“The Fijian people can be assured, we will not tolerate any attempts to violate the historic environmental protections enshrined in our Constitution –– protections that we will build upon with meaningful legislation. We will continue to lead from the front on this issue, at home and abroad. We will continue to walk the talk, for the sake of our environment, for the sake of our way of life, and for the sake of all those who come after us,” Mr Bainimarama said.

The journalists who were brought in for questioning for an alleged case of criminal trespass

In a statement, Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho said: “We would like to clarify that the three were never locked up in a cell and were in the CID office at the Totogo Police Station.”
The three were provided meals, taken to a restaurant to get their dinner and this morning were in the care of officers from the Tourist Police in their office where they were given breakfast and coffee was brought in for them, the Police statement said.
Brigadier-General Qiliho said that contrary to media reports of the three being jailed, the three were never detained in any cell and were well looked after by Police officers.

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