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Journalists challenged to discharge oversight roles in oil industry

Journalists in Turkana County have been challenged to discharge their watchdog role on the oil, minerals and extractive industry activities taking place in the county.

Speaking during a training forum for the journalists in the county at a Lodwar hotel Monday, Oxfam legal expert on extractives, Alaka Lugonzo said there is need for the media to be vigilant and disseminate accurate information in the sector.

The media training was part of a three years “Oil for Development” project funded by the Norwegian government which ends this year.

The project focuses on governance and accountability in the extractive industry. It is being implemented in Turkana East, Turkana South, Turkana West and Turkana central sub counties.

Lugonzo noted that there are huge sums of money involved in the oil sector and urged the media to be vigilant and ensure there is accountability from the licensing, production and development stages of oil production.

She said that journalists have a crucial role in educating the public on land rights, land acquisition process as well as the general legal framework guiding registration and acquisition of community land.

She particularly urged the press to educate the public on the Community Land Act 2016 that guides the land registration, acquisition and compensation processes.

Turkana County is largely community land with no title deeds. The county government is the custodian of the community land.

“Prior to the enactment of the land Act 2016, the Trust Land Act was the one in operation and it provided for compulsory land acquisition,” she said.

The Act also provides for women participation in land management.

Media expert James Kariuki said the media has a critical role in creating awareness to the public on the oil and gas sector.

Kariuki said the media should speak for the vulnerable and protect public interest while reporting on the oil sector.

“The media has a role to protect the public because public resources are involved, ensure the health and safety standards are adhered to and also protect the public from misinformation,” said Kariuki.

He also called on the journalists to discharge their duties in a professional manner and avoid defamation suits that could arise from their reporting.

Oxfam has been spearheading civic education on the extractive sector in the country in Turkana and Lamu where oil was also discovered.

By Peter Gitonga

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