One of the three Kiwi journalists detained in a Fiji jail while working on a story about a controversial resort development has reported details of the ordeal.

Melanie Reid, Mark Jennings and Hayden Aull, who work for news website Newsroom, were taken into custody in Suva after attempting to interview a resort developer accused of the "environmental desecration" of a Mamanucas island.

Newsroom was in the process of investigating the environmental destruction caused by the developers and spent this week on Malolo.

Jennings says they were wrongly held and has written about the incident.


He said the Newsroom team went to Suva in an attempt to talk about the resort development with a director of the company Freesoul. The man wasn't there and other staff demanded they leave.

Despite following instructions, the three Newsroom journalists soon found themselves in trouble, he said.

While visiting a lawyer acting for the landowners, there was a knock on the door.

"'We're the police, come with us,' said a slightly rotund detective who introduced himself by his first name – Asaeli," Jennings said.

"As we left lawyer Dr Ken Chambers' office, our accuser, who we recognised from the Freesoul office, was hanging around the police car.

"Chambers told us: 'I think you're in trouble; this is Fiji anything could happen. I will get you a criminal lawyer, good luck.'"

After being taken to the cells, their lawyer returned saying they would be held in the cells overnight, Jenning said, quoting the lawyer as saying "it could be two days, I think this is very serious".

Jennings said the journalists were advised by their lawyer to "just walk out of here". But the trio decided not to.

Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama with NZ journalists Melanie Reid, Mark Jennings and Hayden Aull.
Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama with NZ journalists Melanie Reid, Mark Jennings and Hayden Aull.

After spending hours in the office of the Criminal Investigation Division and discussing the situation with police, the journalists got the feeling numerous officers didn't think they should be there.

In the early hours of the morning, the hungry journalists were taken to McDonald's - where they bought their own food - before being taken back to the station to sleep upstairs, Jennings said.

In the morning, the journalists were aware their arrest was major news in New Zealand which didn't sit well with Fijian Police.

As Jennings walked outside, he was met by the Police Commissioner who had just been informed they were being held.

The Police Commissioner informed them they were being let go as he didn't believe they "intended to commit a crime" - and then told them to go to their hotel to change because "the Prime Minister wants you to come and have morning tea with him", Jennings said.