Can the daggy dad do it all again?
Fahim Dashty - pioneer of Afghan press freedom

Martin Hadlow: The broadcaster who dared

Keith Phil Martin nr Subic Bay Philippines 1986
Keith, the late Phil Charley and Martin murder a burger & shake near Subic Bay, Philippines, 1986. We were between running media management courses in Manila and Baguio City


NOOSA – I really need to expound here on Martin Hadlow, who wrote the article above, a great friend of mine for nearly 50 years.

It must be a good friendship because it survived Martin taking over two radio stations from me, Radio Bougainville in 1973 and 2ARM-FM Armidale in 1977.

Martin continued to an illustrious career with Unesco and later academia – in both jurisdictions his skills in organisation and expertise in media and communications put to profoundly good use.

Our paths have crossed from time to time and our friendship has endured.

In Papua New Guinea, Martin managed radio stations in Bougainville, Kerema and Morobe and, in Australia, managed community radio stations in Armidale and Newcastle.

Through the 1980s he helped develop the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation before moving on to direct an Australian aid project in South-East Asia followed doing something similar in Laos, Vietnam and the Pacific islands.

Come the 1990s and he is directing projects in Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Jordan and Iraq and then ascends to represent and direct all Unesco’s interests in Kazakhstan and Afghanistan in 2001.

In there somewhere was a stint as the director of Unesco’s Division of Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace in Paris.

Martin was never much the type for head offices, bureaucracies or officialdom.

And in mentioning this, I know that many of you will understand ‘the field’.

Kabul Cinema in 2001
Martin's snap of the wartorn Kabul Cinema in 2011

The field is that admirable place where the action is.

The field is the place where, when you do something, no matter what it is, you can always see what you’ve done.

And the field is where the vast bulk of Martin’s 12 years with Unesco, and indeed his career, was spent – building the mass media and extolling press freedom in Asia, the Pacific, the Arab States and Africa.

That’s quite a career.

Martin’s was an international broadcasting management career of great substance and merit and, I would speculate, probably unmatched by very few, if any, Australians.

When Martin eventually returned to Australia about a decade ago, it was to a professorship at the University of Queensland where he was foundation director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change. He also knocked off a doctorate.

By then, to become deputy chair of the Australian National Commission for Unesco was pretty much a gimme.

It would be a fair call to say that Martin’s long career in broadcasting brought considerable credit to Australia.

That he volunteered for the tough gigs often in harsh conditions, often for long stretches away from family, would have been recognised and admired by those he served.

And his career certainly brought great prestige upon him as a person of courage and character.

As I mentioned, Martin never shirked the difficult assignments.

Martin Hadlow  old transceiver
Martin and an ageing transceiver - radio guys love posing with equipment, talking about it too

He wrote to me from Kabul soon after he arrived there in 2001: “Security is such a problem and this further saps one's energy. Rocket attacks, car bombs, shootings and so on.... We have to watch our security every minute of the day.”

A Londoner by birth, Martin is now kicking back in Queensland – a land, as you would appreciate, that heroes know is a place fit for them.

I wrote to him recently, “I remain full of admiration for what you did in deciding to leave Paris to work in Kabul 20 years ago.

“If that was all you had ever done to earn your place in the pantheon of broadcasting heroes, it would be more than sufficient.”

I’m glad I mentioned that, and introduced him to you, even if it embarrasses him.


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Lindsay F Bond

Embrace reads better than embarrass. Yay. Hero.

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