The media should help in managing expectations of Ugandans from the nascent oil and gas sector by providing accurate and authoritative information, the petroleum commissioner has said.
Ernest Rubondo, the Commissioner ofPetroleum Exploration and Production Department, told a group of more than 25 senior editors attending a two-day workshop organized by the African Centre for Media Excellence that the oil and gas industry is inherently risky and has the potential to adversely affect other sectors if poorly managed. He said that because of this, the media should report responsibly “to avoid disruption of the sector and to contribute to managing expectations.”
Mr. Rubondo was the first of six senior government officials, legislators and consultants to address the editors at the workshop held on September 18-19, 2012. He set the stage for the news managers to understand the oil industry by explaining the progress and achievements in the nascent Ugandan oil industry, and detailing key issues in the implementation of the National Oil and Gas Policy.
The editors, who regularly oversee the reporting on oil, were urged to seek correct information to avoid misrepresentation based on selfish interests.
The Commissioner gave examples of published articles that were incorrect or based on evidently biased and uninformed opinions.
“Get the right mix between political debates and expert information,” he advised. “It is important, for accurate reporting on oil and gas that the media stop relying on politicians as sources of information and consult technical authorities for their stories.”
This suggestion was echoed by Dr. Tom Okurut, the Executive Director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
Okurut said there is a lot of publicly-available information regarding the Authority’s management of the young oil sector to which journalists can refer in order to report authoritatively. He challenged the editors to visit the NEMA website and offices to peruse the documents in order to enhance their understanding of the industry.
The editors’ training was the climax of a two-year pilot project by Revenue Watch and the Thomson Reuters Foundation to teach journalists on reporting effectively on oil and gas. The project implemented in partnership by the African Centre for Media Excellence and the International Centre for ICT Journalism, Pen Plus Bytes, has trained more than 40 journalists from Uganda and Ghana.
The journalists are equipped to monitor oil and gas issues and report them authoritatively. Their work is expected to receive a considerable boost now that they have the support more informed editorial managers.
The following is Mr. Rubondo’s presentation: