OPEC Restricts Access for Major News Outlets at Vienna Conference

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In a surprising turn of events, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has once again implemented a media ban, denying accreditation to reporters from three prominent financial news organizations—Bloomberg, Reuters, and The Wall Street Journal—for their coverage of the upcoming conference in Vienna. This decision follows a similar move made by OPEC for a previous meeting in June, where accreditations were revoked for journalists representing the 13 OPEC member countries led by Riyadh, as well as their 10 allies led by Moscow.

Bloomberg reported the media ban and expressed concerns over the exclusion of certain journalists, including their own, from the upcoming seminar. A statement released by the US news agency, which was consulted by AFP on Thursday, strongly advocated for OPEC to reconsider and allow journalists from relevant global news outlets to attend the conference, emphasizing the importance of market transparency.

The ban appears to have targeted Reuters as well, as the news agency confirmed that it too had been affected. Additionally, a source close to the matter revealed that The Wall Street Journal did not receive an invitation to the conference. This development raises questions about the motives behind OPEC's decision and its implications for media access.

Scheduled to take place on July 5-6 at Vienna's Hofburg Palace, the conference boasts an impressive lineup of notable speakers. Among them are Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Bernard Looney, the head of British oil giant BP, and Kadri Simson, the European Energy Commissioner. Their insights and contributions to the event are eagerly anticipated by attendees.

Austria's Foreign Ministry, which plans to participate in the conference, has refrained from commenting on the ban. However, it took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of media freedom and the crucial role it plays in democratic societies, particularly in enabling comprehensive coverage of political developments.

As of now, the OPEC press office has not provided an immediate response regarding the media ban. In a previous statement made in June, OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al-Ghais defended the organization's selective media strategy, asserting their right to decide on a case-by-case basis who should be invited to cover their events. Al-Ghais justified this approach by stating that OPEC views their meetings as a private affair, thus shaping their media policy accordingly.

Founded in 1960, OPEC's primary objective is to coordinate and unify petroleum policies among its member countries, with the aim of ensuring fair and stable prices for producers. In 2016, the organization joined forces with 10 non-OPEC nations to establish the OPEC+ group, which collectively accounts for 60 percent of the world's oil production.

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