BY KEITH JACKSON
THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPER has acted contemptibly by excluding from its columns for the most trivial reasons two of Papua New Guinea’s most interesting writers – one of them, Russell Soaba [right], the doyen of PNG literature.
First to go was law student, activist and inveterate twitterer Nou Vada – a vastly entertaining and provocative writer whose crime, it seems, was to mention the name of prominent blogger Martyn Namorong in an article Nou wrote for The National.
In the article, which was about the use of social media in PNG, Nou was imprudent enough to write:
"Help @Mangiwantok take the truth about #PNG to #Australia #Deakin University". That was the tweet I posted on twitter a few days ago along with a link to a story on veteran journalist Keith Jackson's blog PNG Attitude.
The reference was to Deakin University's invitation to outspoken PNG blogger Martyn Namorong for Martyn to present a paper on PNG and to sit on a panel of experts in a two-day PNG seminar in Australia.
“After I sent this,” Nou said later, “the editor informed me that management had given instructions for the newspaper not to publish anything from me. The stated reason was that I own Edebamona blog.
“It is also because the Rimbunan Hijau dislikes Martyn Namorong greatly. The writer's lot is not an easy one….No hard feelings from me.”
But now the hard hand of the hard-liners at this hard-faced newspaper has descended on no less a figure than Russell Soaba, the esteemed PNG novelist and poet and grand old man of PNG literature.
Last week, The National got rid of Russell’s long-running Storyboard writing feature from its pages apparently because he made a comment that, at the University of PNG’s Waigani campus, The National's Friday edition sells less copies that the rival Post-Courier.
That slender observation was too much for the flinty-souled, glass-jawed control freaks at The National – and Soaba was banned and his popular writing feature dropped.
The good news is that the folks at the Post-Courier, ever looking for an opportunity, snapped up Russell Soaba like a hungry crocodile – and his Storyboard feature will now appear there.
The Post-Courier, of course, is also co-founder of the Crocodile Prize national literary awards and editor Blaise Nangoi is on the record as being a great supporter of home-grown PNG literature.
Those guys at The National should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves. They have behaved disgracefully.