'Voice of PNG' Roger Hau'ofa passes away

4:51 pm on 6 March 2017

Tributes are flowing in for the legendary Papua New Guinea broadcaster Roger Hau'ofa who passed away at the weekend.

Roger Hau'ofa

Roger Hau'ofa Photo: Facebook

Mr Hau'ofa was a prominent radio talkback figure, most recently with FM100 and earlier with national broadcaster NBC, with over four decades of experience.

The 73-year old died peacefully among family in his village of Iare in Kairuku District, Central Province after suffering a long illness related to kidney failure.

According to the PNG writer, Martyn Namorong, Roger Hau'ofa was the voice of PNG political, social and economic consciousness.

"He understood and articulated the issues to the population in a way, in a voice that people... it was really the voice, his voice was the thing that people recognised, and of course the good ideas that came with that voice. He was a real institution of radio for 40 years. And it's really, really sad. Some of us grew up listening to Hau'ofa about issues."

Meanwhile, PNG's opposition leader Don Polye described Mr Hau'ofa's death as a huge loss to the nation's media industry.

"He had a distinctive voice with his fluency in English. His used to critically analyse important issues affecting the country and created forums on the radio airwaves to prompt policies and legislations to address them," he said.

PNG Today reported Polye saying the late broadcaster left a legacy which young presenters would aspire to live by.

"He was a strong advocate for democracy, rule of law, good governance and systems of governance amongst others. His relatives and families should be proud of his contribution to the nation."

Martyn Namorong, who is considered one of PNG's leading social commentators and writers, recalled how his first experience talking on radio was on Roger Hau'ofa's talkback show, when he was still a school student.

Mr Namorong said Mr Hau'ofa's voice was heard by many Papua New Guineans, in rural and urban communities for over four decades and was instrumental in informing on national issues.

The late broadcaster's skills and wide appeal were a testament to the power of radio in a population that has an oral-based culture.

"Levels of literacy are very low. In some parts of PNG you only have 30% of the population that can read and write," said Mr Namorong.

"So radio and oral culture is still very strong. It's just about someone being able to negotiate that space and win the audience over. And that's where the gap is."

Martyn Namorong

Martyn Namorong Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Mr Namorong said radio would still be important for PNG in the future, but depended on the human element to convey messages effectively.

He said that Roger Hau'ofa, and the recently deceased PNG newspaper pioneer Oseah Philemon, were difficult to replace in the PNG media landscape.

"A lot of voices these days are partisan voices... but these (Hau'ofa and Philemon) were characters who transcended those partisan boundaries and represented the institution of the media as it's supposed to be, I suppose."