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Journalists Denied Entry to Azerbaijan Energy Conference Amidst COP29 Preparations

As the world gears up for the upcoming 27th Conference of the Parties (COP29) in Azerbaijan, a concerning development has emerged: journalists have been barred from attending an energy conference held in the host country. This incident has raised serious questions about press freedom and transparency in the run-up to the crucial climate summit.

The energy conference, titled "Towards Zero Emissions: Caspian Sea Region Energy Outlook," was organized by the Azerbaijani government and held in the capital city of Baku from June 28 to 29. Despite the conference's focus on the energy transition and climate change mitigation, several journalists from international media outlets were denied entry.

According to reports, journalists from the Guardian, BBC, and Euronews were among those refused visas. They were informed that their applications had been rejected without any specific reason or explanation. This decision has been widely condemned by press freedom organizations and advocacy groups.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Azerbaijani authorities to reverse their decision and allow journalists to attend the conference. CPJ's Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, Gulnoza Said, stated, "It is unacceptable that journalists are being denied entry to a conference focused on climate change, an issue of global importance."

The International Press Institute (IPI) has also expressed concern over the incident. IPI's Deputy Director, Scott Griffen, said, "The Azerbaijani government's refusal to grant visas to journalists is a clear attempt to silence critical voices and control the narrative around COP29."

The denial of entry to journalists has cast a shadow over the upcoming COP29 conference. Many observers fear that it could create a chilling effect on media coverage and limit the public's access to information about the summit.

COP29 is scheduled to take place in Baku from November 27 to December 13, 2024. It will be the first time the conference is hosted in a post-Soviet republic. Azerbaijan has been criticized for its human rights record and has been accused of suppressing dissent and restricting media freedom.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern about the broader implications of the energy conference incident. HRW's South Caucasus researcher, Giorgi Gogia, stated, "The Azerbaijani government's actions suggest that it is not genuinely committed to press freedom and transparency. This is a worrying sign for COP29, a conference that is supposed to be a platform for open and inclusive dialogue."

The denial of entry to journalists undermines the credibility of Azerbaijan as a host for COP29. It raises questions about the country's ability to facilitate a successful and transparent conference that will address the pressing challenges of climate change.

Transparency and media freedom are essential for the success of any international conference, especially one on a topic as important as climate change. The Azerbaijani government must take steps to rectify this situation and ensure that all journalists are granted access to the energy conference and COP29.

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