Foreign journalists barred from the Baku Energy Conference

Participants in the Baku Energy Week. Source: Official Website of the President of Azerbaijan (Photo: )

Several foreign journalists were denied entry to an energy industry conference held in Baku in early June, according to a report by The Guardian published on June 28.

This incident has raised concerns about increasing media restrictions ahead of COP29, scheduled in Baku this November.

The Guardian spoke with at least three journalists from Britain and France who described feeling threatened after being barred from the Baku Energy Week forum. Despite registering for the event weeks in advance, they were not provided a valid reason for their exclusion by Azerbaijani authorities.

The journalists, including Lawrence Walker and Christopher Eales from Montel News, and an unnamed British journalist known for critical reporting on Azerbaijan, left the venue following what they described as “intimidating” confrontations. This event occurs amid reports of local journalists facing imprisonment in the country.

Human Rights Watch released a statement shortly after the conference, revealing that at least 25 journalists and activists have been detained in Azerbaijan over the past year, with court verdicts issued against many of them.

The journalists claimed they had been accredited for the exhibition and the forum. However, a spokesperson for Caspian Event Organizers labeled the situation a “misunderstanding,” stating that the journalists were only accredited for the exhibition, not the forum. The spokesperson also admitted that due to heightened security, the journalists were later removed from the exhibition as well.

The spokesperson expressed frustration over the incident, attributing it to the “tense” nature of the event and describing the foreign journalists as “stubborn.” Despite this, The Guardian reviewed email correspondence showing that the journalists had requested access to both events held at different locations in Baku.

Christopher Eales told The Guardian that Azerbaijan poses significant risks for journalists: “There is no place to clarify something in a country where there is no press freedom and local journalists are imprisoned.”

The Guardian reports that the UN Climate Change Secretariat will manage media accreditation for COP29 through an online registration process. The organizers of COP29 have not commented on the incident. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev inaugurated the two-day Baku Energy Week, which saw participation and sponsorship from leading oil companies.

The Guardian has contacted the Azerbaijani government for a response regarding the incident but has not yet received a reply.

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