Austria will not send its foreign minister to the upcoming Opec conference in its capital Vienna amid controversy about the organisation banning various media outlets. 

In an email to Offshore Technology, the office of Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg stated that the minister had never formally been confirmed as participating in the event and was added to the schedule by mistake. The statement added the minister would not be attending the conference due to “scheduling issues”. However, the statement makes much of Opec’s recent decision to ban several high-profile media outlets from the event. 

The statement is highly critical of the media restrictions, noting that “there is absolutely no doubt that freedom of the media, including the provision of information on political developments, is a cornerstone of any democratic society and must therefore be respected at all times”. Reuters, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal have all been denied entry to the event, despite Opec and Opec+ conferences normally being well covered by the media. All three of these publications were also banned from last month’s Opec+ conference. 

No reason was given to any of the banned publications as to why their accreditation was cancelled. Bloomberg commented last week: “We are very concerned by the prospect of OPEC excluding certain journalists, including from Bloomberg, from next week’s seminar”, adding: “For the sake of market transparency, we strongly advocate for OPEC to allow journalists from relevant global news outlets to attend.”  

Schallenberg is not the only government official to have expressed displeasure at Opec’s recent attitude to the media. At the same time, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson has said that while she will take part in a previously scheduled roundtable discussion, she “will not engage with media present at the conference”. 

 The 8th OPEC International Seminar is due to take place on 5–6 July at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace. 

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