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IPI Kicks Off Oil, Gas & Media Conference
Panel stresses need for press freedom and specific training for coverage of oil and gas industry
BAKU, Sep. 18, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today kicked off its two-day “Oil, Gas and Media Conference” by calling on the Azerbaijan government to support a free media and to promote greater transparency in the oil and gas sector.
More than 170 journalists from 27 countries gathered at Gulustan Palace to open the first-of-its-kind event, which began with a statement from President Ilham Aliyev, delivered by Ali Hasanov, state counselor to the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Natiq Aliyev (no relation), minister of industry and energy for Azerbaijan.
Industry and energy minister Aliyev suggested that “the international media has a lot of prejudice and misconceptions about international oil corporations”.
The opening ceremony, at which several dignitaries were present, including the ambassadors of Iraq and Austria, was immediately followed by the first of several panels, "Oil and Press Freedom – Rig over Troubled Waters?"
Moderated by IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills, the panel included: Curtis Brainard, editor, The Observatory, Columbia Journalism Review, USA; Jürgen Roth, investigative journalist, Germany; and Curtis Williams, chief energy reporter, Trinidad Guardian and Caribbean correspondent, Oil and Gas Journal.
"Citizens have a right to be given accurate information about the oil and gas industry," said Mills in explaining IPI’s decision to host the conference.
Press freedom issues in the oil sector, added Brainard, are not limited to Third World countries, as reporters in nations such as the United States have also faced issues in coverage, particularly during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
“The Gulf Oil spill highlighted the need for press freedom and how much reporters were not equipped,” said Brainard, adding, “It was just atrocious the kind of response and pushback that characterised this oil spill.”
In the lead-up to the conference IPI had been heavily questioned over its decision to host the event in Azerbaijan, a country widely criticised for its human rights and press freedom records. In an interview with local media following the opening session, IPI said it would continue to bring concerns about jailed journalists to the attention of the Aliyev administration.
In a meeting with IPI today, government officials confirmed that five of eight journalists reportedly in jail have been released from custody. The other three, they argue, are not journalists. IPI reiterated its concern over the jailing and pre-trial detention of journalists and condemned the alleged brief detainment of two journalists working for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) who were covering a protest in front of the Presidential Administration.
Find us on Twitter at @ogmazerbaijan. Follow the discussions at #IPIOGM2012.
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List of participants is available for download and print (PDF file).
Video package from the conference is uploaded on our YouTube channel.
My Country is Oil Rich, So Why Am I So Poor?
BAKU, Sep 19, 2012 - IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie opened the first of two sessions dedicated to oil wealth and poverty at IPI’s Oil Gas & Media Conference in Baku, Azerbaijan on Wednesday by noting that in many oil-rich countries populations remain devastatingly poor.
“Why is no one reporting on what happens to the oil wealth?” Bethel McKenzie asked.
The panelists were:
- Tom Burgis, reporter, Financial Times, UK
- Joe Nam, contributing writer, New Vision, Uganda
- Aida Sultanova, editor-in-chief, Azerpress, Azerbaijan
Burgis noted the damaging effect oil industries have on other economic sectors in West Africa, where he was a correspondent for a number of years.
Nam spoke of high expectations of what oil wealth should bring, “coupled with an inability of governments to deliver on the promises of building health sectors improving infrastructure etc”.
He said: “The general condition of people remains as it is.” He added: “The gap between rich and poor is widening.”