The gathering is being hosted by the International Press Institute (IPI), a Vienna-based global network for free media operating in over 120 countries in collaboration with the IPI’s Azerbaijani National Committee and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) and the Centre for Economic and Social Development (CESD).
The Oil, Gas and Media Conference, the first of its kind to be organised by IPI, is aimed at encouraging ongoing collaboration and cooperation among diverse groups particularly, journalists covering the oil and gas industries, business reporters, oil and gas industry executives, analysts, experts and politicians.
The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, in a speech read for him, welcomed all the participants to the country and urged them to explore further areas in the oil sector so they could understand the issues in the industry and help disseminate them to the public.
He said in Azerbaijan the oil industry had played a major role in the country’s economy and it still continued to help build numerous infrastructure and human resources through training of over 90 per cent of nationals to work in the industry.
Ms Alison Bethel McKenzie, Executive Director, IPI, said the participants had been invited to the conference to explore how public opinion, freedom of information and media relations “all intersect with the oil and gas industries”.
She stressed the need for the media to be allowed to operate in a free environment devoid of media intimidation, stressing that press freedom was fundamental human rights.
She expressed the hope that the conference would help spur progress in the field of press freedom in Azerbaijan where despite some positive developments, serious concerns still existed in the area of press freedom.
She further urged the Azerbaijani government to ensure the release of three journalists, who currently have been imprisoned “for performing their watchdog role”, serving society.
Mr Natiq Aliyev, Minister of Industry and Energy, Azerbaijan, said because of the many stereotypes and misconceptions being circulated against the oil companies in the industry, there was the need for the media to do careful study and report accurately on the issues, stressing, “the truth is that the oil and gas industry has help build most of the economies of the world. Let us be closer to reality”
The sessions cover a broad array of related topics, including the link between oil reporting and press freedom, the complex world of energy ventures, access to information about state oil interest, oil and gas exploration, extractive and safety, poverty in oil-rich nations and the use of social media by Oil Companies.
Other speakers at the conference also stressed the need to allow the media to operate in a free and independent way to enable it monitor the use of state resources.