SUVA, Fiji — Armed rebels holding 27 members of Fiji's ousted government inside parliament forcibly kept 16 journalists inside the complex for more than an hour Thursday, shortly after the military announced plans to isolate the hostage-takers.

The reporters, nine from abroad and seven from Fiji, were released late Thursday. The incident raised alarm that the rebels might try to take more hostages.

After speaking to reporters inside parliament, rebel leader George Speight said it would be too dangerous for them to return to their homes and hotels because of the army presence outside the compound.

"My recommendation to all of us is that it would be unsafe to leave this campus this evening. . . . We advise that you don't leave," he told the reporters. When they tried to leave anyway, they were turned back by rebels guarding the parliamentary gates.

"I think it actually marks a dangerous escalation in this business because clearly George has cut out press conferences as an option," said Michael Field, a reporter for Agence France-Presse who was among those held.

He said he would no longer report from inside the parliamentary compound, as he has been doing for weeks.

Earlier Thursday, the army announced it would cordon off the complex in an effort to cut off supplies to the hostage-takers.

"People moving freely at any moment will have to be stopped, media will have to be stopped," army spokesman Lt. Col. Filipo Tarakinikini told Fiji TV.

Officials also were considering cutting off water, electricity, and telephone lines to the gunmen, he said.

By Thursday evening there was no evidence that any of these measures had been put into effect.

The decision to cordon off the area was to protect the "security" of citizens during the standoff and make sure the rebels take no more captives, army spokesman Capt. Eroni Volavola told The Associated Press earlier Thursday.

Army officials were preparing a decree Thursday to make the isolation official, he said.

Volavola did not say if isolating the compound was a precursor to further military action, but it appeared to raise the stakes in the six-week standoff.

The move came a day after Fiji's military rulers said they would appoint a new civilian government without input from the hostage-takers, who had demanded a role in the administration before they would release their captives.

Rebels led by Speight, a former insurance executive, have said the hostages would die in an attempted rescue.

Speight and armed supporters stormed Parliament on May 19 and took the government captive, including Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, the first ethnic Indian to lead the nation. They claimed to be acting on behalf of Fiji's indigenous majority.

The army imposed martial law 10 days later in what it said was an attempt to keep Fiji from descending into anarchy.

The rebel raid sent Fiji's economy into a tailspin, with millions of dollars a day lost in tourism revenue and most of the sugar cane going unharvested.

In a move that should bring some economic relief, Australian unions said Thursday they will lift a ban on handling cargo to and from Fiji that they imposed when the crisis began. New Zealand lifted a similar ban this week.

Fiji's garment industry, one of the nation's economic pillars, has been starved of raw materials by the ban by Australia, which is both its major supplier and customer.

On Tuesday, the military had given Speight and his rebels 24 hours to agree to sign an accord that would pave the way for the immediate release of the hostages and establish procedures to appoint an interim civilian government.

But the deadline passed Wednesday without a positive response from the rebels, and Tarakinikini said the military would name the new government on its own.

He said the interim government could be appointed this week and would rule after the hostages are released for up to two years until new elections are scheduled. In the meantime, the military would retain executive authority, he said.

Tarakinikini said the possibility of negotiations with the rebels still exists and the army's offer of amnesty for Speight and his group stands, but only if the hostages are not harmed.

Most of the rebels' demands to disenfranchise Fiji's Indians have been met, including the firing of Chaudhry and the elimination of the country's 1997 multiracial constitution.