About a year ago, in the aftermath of the revolution that drove Muammar el-Qaddafi from power in Libya, journalists crowded into a press conference called by the transitional government’s Oil Ministry. Among the reporters was a small contingent of Libyan journalists. Yet it was only the foreigners who peppered a government minister with questions about when production would resume and other issues; the Libyans remained silent.
When colleagues asked the Libyans why they didn’t speak up, the general reply was, “Well, we don’t know what to ask,” said Zara Rahman, a freedom of information expert from the organization OpenOil who attended the event that day. It seems that information about Libya’s oil industry had long been hard to come by locally, leaving the reporters unprepared.
This information deficit, which often works to the benefit of oil companies, is what OpenOil seeks to remedy. Part energy consultancy, part publishing house, the Berlin-based organization focuses on countries with a so-called “resource curse,” meaning that most of their citizens remain poor despite plentiful local oil resources. Information about the dealings between governments and oil companies in such nations is often scarce.