Editorial

Prime Minister Condemns Detainment Of Kiwi Journalists

The trio were investigating claims of environmental damages by a hotel development project in the Mamanucas by hotel developer Freesoul Real Estate Development.
05 Apr 2019 12:23
Prime Minister Condemns Detainment Of Kiwi Journalists
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with Newsroom.co.nz investigations editor Melanie Reid (middle) and co-editor Mark Jennings at the Government Office in Parliament on April 4, 2019. Photo: DEPTFO News

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s tone yesterday in Parliament, condemning the detainment of three Kiwi journalists who were simply going about their business sends out a clear message.

Let journalists do their work freely and without fear. And if you take advantage of the law, you will be taken to task.

A board of inquiry has been set up to investigate why the three Newsroom journalists, co-editor Mark Jennings, Investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull were taken in on Wednesday night.

The trio were investigating claims of environmental damages by a hotel development project in the Mamanucas by hotel developer Freesoul Real Estate Development.

The investigation is expected to reveal rogue elements within the Fiji Police Force.

If the arresting officers had received instructions to do what they did – the board of inquiry should highlight this.

Mr Bainimarama has promised that nothing less than a full investigation into why the officers used heavy-handed tactics or may have violated protocols.

The same reaction is expected if local journalists suffered a similar fate.

As Mr Bainimarama rightly pointed out, news outlets can be an ally in accountability and help expose illegal environmental destruction among other things.

In fact, it was the Newsroom that broke the story of environmental damages at the new Mamanuca hotel project.

Having worked around the world for over 40 years, Mr Jennings said this was the first time he was detained for simply doing his job.

Media freedom is a vital part of our democracy and journalists should be allowed to do their work freely and without fear.

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