Freed hostage Harmeet Sooden returns to New Zealand today to a warning from Prime Minister Helen Clark not to go back to Iraq.

Helen Clark said it was not helpful for Canadian-born Mr Sooden and other members of the Christian Peacemakers Teams (CPT) to go to Iraq.

"The New Zealand Government constantly says to Kiwis 'Don't go there. You are walking into a war zone. It is a very, very dangerous place and new Zealand is not represented in Iraq in any shape or form and we are not in a position to help'," she told Newstalk ZB.

Mr Sooden and his father Daleep Sooden were briefly reunited in a secret location in Dubai yesterday.

Mark Brewer, Mr Sooden's brother-in-law said the meeting was very important for the family.

"It brought a sense of closure, especially for his dad who got to see him and it was great for him," he said.

Mr Sooden was rescued along with Canadian James Loney, 41, who is on his way back to Canada and Norman Kember, 74, of Britain, who has already returned home.

They were kidnapped by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade in Iraq on November 26 last year.

The fourth CPT worker taken hostage, American Tom Fox, was found dead earlier this month.

Helen Clark added on TVNZ's Breakfast show: "I think the first thing is just to find a safe and secure place, settle down, work the issues through, accept any counselling if that's what's needed because it's not easy to come back to normal life after that."

Mr Sooden's family is refusing to deal with any media organisation except TVNZ prompting accusations of "chequebook journalism".

The National Party's spokeswoman, Georgina te Heuheu, yesterday called on Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey to state his position.

"In my view, state television should not be paying for stories even if their minister has publicly criticised the news service as being inferior to the competition," she said.

The state-owned network confirmed last week it had offered to pay air fares for family members to fly to the Middle East, which TV3 said would cost about $30,000.

TVNZ head of current affairs Bill Ralston said he doubted it would cost that much and said "we've got a couple of air tickets and some accommodation to pay for. Our reporter Ian Sinclair has been very close to the family for the last 117 days."

Ms te Heuheu said Mr Maharey had been "quick to sink the boot in" over TVNZ's slide in ratings, and could not now refuse to comment on how it went about its business.

"Mr Maharey should also tell taxpayers how much TVNZ spends on this type of 'chequebook journalism' and whether he plans to do anything about it," she said.

In November last year Mr Maharey upset TVNZ staff when he said One News should be more upbeat, and that TV3 was "slick" and a "class act".

Ms te Heuheu said questions about freedom of the press, fairness and accuracy were all relevant when the largest taxpayer-funded broadcaster "starts trying to out-bid the competition for the best story".

"If this is allowed to continue unchecked, truth and honesty will be the real casualties," she said.

- NZPA