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Luke Sela: rock of PNG journalism

Luke Sela died in Lorengau on Wednesday at the age of 64. It’s the second time this year that Papua New Guinea has lost a commanding media figure, Sam Piniau died just a couple of months ago, and the second time I’d lost a great mate. As I remarked to PNG Media Council boss, Justin Kili, who brought me the sad news, all our lives would be poorer if such people didn't stroll into them from time to time.

Luke Clement Sela OBE, was a Manus Islander who attained the heights of media influence in PNG and never once betrayed the cause of freedom and fairness. As a press statement from the Media Council said today: “Luke was the rock of PNG journalism, a man of great courage, determination and conviction to a free media in Papua New Guinea.”

Luke was editor of PNG’s main national daily, the Post-Courier, for 14 years from 1978 to 1992 and finally retired from the newspaper in 2000. To quote the Media Council again, “He laid the foundation for and set the benchmark for professional and fearless reporting of Papua New Guinea affairs by an independent media.”

“He never saw himself as a friend to those in power and neither did he consider himself to be their foe. His no-nonsense approach to reporting won him great admiration. Luke was always unapologetic for the views and stands he took on many national issues. He always did what he believed to be the best for his country.”

You can’t ask more of a journalist than that.


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Andrew Coward

Luke Sela was a gentle man - calm, without rancour. He was watchful and earnest in conversation; humorous and he was a gentleman.

And when I knew him during the troubles in Rabaul 1970-71, Luke was adept at his craft. From memory, like Carolus Ketsimur, Luke was ABC trained.

Among my co-workers in those days was Falesoa Vari, also passed, who I introduced to Luke. Years later Fale and Luke served on the Post Courier together. I like to think they remembered me and Keith Jackson in their conversations from time to time.

Their temperaments and natural courtesy were similar. Both taught me much about their people - Luke was from Manus and Fale came from Papua, Huri as I recall.

Carolus - Charlie - I believe is alive and well in his native Tinputz and has moved from journalism into elected office with the new Bougainville administration.

Andrew Coward, Senior Information Officer, New Guinea Islands Region, 1970-72

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