OSWEGO, NY – Journalists from around the world converged on SUNY Oswego recently.
There wasn’t any international news event. Instead, it was a group of reporters and editors gathering to share their views as part of a panel on Accountability in Government.
The U.S. Department of State, International Center of Syracuse and SUNY Oswego facilitated the program.
The international visitors traveled to Central New York through the International Center of Syracuse, which worked with Phelps Stokes, an organization that aims to develop the educational leadership capacity of under-served communities for the U.S. Department of State.
The initial discussion was held in Rich Hall. Following the panel discussion, participants were able to have one-on-one discussion with SUNY Oswego Students as well as take a group tour of the college.
That was followed by a tour of Fort Ontario with Paul Lear and then a tour of the Safe Haven Museum with Judy Coe Rappaport.
Assemblyman Will Barclay helped organize the panel. He and Assemblyman Bob Oaks also took an active role in the discussion with international community leaders from countries such as Lebanon, Russia, Venezuela and the People’s Republic of China.
“Today’s discussion was educational, to say the least. Listening to leaders throughout the world talk about their desire and need for government accountability helps us appreciate our freedoms and democracy here,” Assemblyman Barclay told Oswego County Today. “I hope we were able to provide some ideas they can use that helps improve transparency and accountability in their respective communities.”
“Transparency, accountability and ethics relating to investment and economic development are critical if we expect to enjoy a credible economic recovery,” added Assemblyman Oaks. “I am grateful to be a participant in this Phelps Stokes Fund project that examines the relationship between government and the private sector.”
Other local panelists included Maureen McPhereson, the State Attorney General’s public integrity officer for the Syracuse region; Fred Vigeant with WRVO; and Dr. Eileen Gilligan, SUNY Oswego professor and former reporter.
“It is interesting to have leaders from around the world converge on this important topic. Our international visitors all have an interest in protecting their countries from faulty products, as well as tracking how public dollars are spent. I’m glad to be a part of this discussion today,” said Ruth Ragonese, executive director of the International Center of Syracuse.
Thad Mantaro, assistant director, SUNY Oswego Office of Business and Community Relations, introduced the participants and helped facilitate the discussion.
The attorney general has appointed public integrity officers into several regions since it is such a large geographical state, McPhereson told the panel.
“Local cities and town now have someone to call in their geographical region to report problems they see with either public bidding, expenditures of public money or perceived conflicts of interests in their local public officials,” she explained.
Ken Sturtz, a journalism student and member of the college newspaper’s staff, said, “The best way to keep government accountable is with a free press, whether it is the Senate and Assembly (of the state) county legislators or our own student government.”
Ms. Martina Kubaniova, reporter and journalist from the Slovak Republic, said she enjoyed her time at the college and learned a great deal at the panel.
The trip to Fort Ontario was also very interesting, she said.
It was good to see and learn about the history of the area as well as the government, added Ms. May Hasan Nour Eddine, program coordinator, Lebanese Transparency Association, Lebanon.
“We had a very enjoyable time here in Oswego,” said Mr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Konkov, section chief, Analytic Center, Government of the Russian Federation, Russia. “Thank you for showing us around. We learned a lot at the panel and enjoyed seeing the fort.”
Among the other participants:
Mr. Artur Hovsepyan, Head International Relations Division State Revenue Committee Government of the Republic of Armenia
Mr. Monirul Hasan Ahmed, Special Correspondent, News and Current Affairs, NTV, Bangladesh
Mr. Jean Shanon Beaublanc, Inspector Assistant, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Haiti
Mr. Shu Keung Choi, Principal Investigator Independent Commission Against Corruption, People’s Republic of China
Ms. Nazly Nicolasa Escalona Barrios, National Coordinator of Public Policies, COPEI Political Party, Venezuela
Ms. Renee Yates, English Language Officer
Two students from SUNY Oswego
Dr. Julie Pretzet Merchant, Associate Dean, SUNY Oswego School of Communications, Media and the Arts