A kiwi journalist was forced to share a cell with 22 others during two weeks of captivity in Yemen, with one squat toilet and no flushing water.

Glen Johnson, deported from the Middle Eastern country two weeks ago after crossing its border illegally, has spoken for the first time about his 14 days locked up.

He was transferred between five different prisons in various parts of the country.

He shared one cell with 20 Pakistanis and two Syrians, who suspected him of being a secret policeman.

"The conditions there were very bad," Johnson said. " My mattress was next to the squat and it was truly disgusting. Horrendous."

The food was poor, mainly rice and potatoes, but Johnson said he was generally treated with respect by all of the Yemeni officials he came into contact with.

In one lockup, electricity was intermittent and he was kept in the corridor of an empty cell block for three days.

In another, he was held in solitary confinement, then blindfolded, handcuffed and led to a room for a "very serious" interrogation that stretched on for hours.

"It was completely disorienting: you can't see anything, you can vaguely hear people shuffling but you don't know how many people are present."

He shared a cell with Iranians who alleged they had been held for 21 months without charge on gun-running allegations.

"I didn't know that anyone even knew I had been detained, so I began worrying that perhaps I would just drop off the face of the earth for a while."

Johnson got into Yemen by boat with a people smuggling group bringing poor Africans to the Middle East. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade helped secure his release. He is now heading south to cover the drought in eastern Africa.

Glen Johnson's Yemeni experiences will feature on TV3's 60 Minutes tonight.