“Media Advocate” initiative continues the series of interviews with the press secretaries. Let us remind you that last time our interlocutor was the former speaker of the Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan, the topic, of course, was the border situation and the work of the Ministry of Defense in that regard. During these days, quite a large-scale and multi-layered work was carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well: Spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan told us about the working process and not only.
“During the last few months, the Foreign Ministry’s information department has been working in an emergency mode because of the coronavirus outbreak. During the escalation, we work all day long, special attention is paid to the monitoring which gives us an opportunity to evaluate and reveal the gaps and comments, we answer journalists’ inquiries. After the “official” start of the working day, starting from 9 o’clock we receive calls. Sometimes we receive dozens of calls in an hour, it is very important to respond to every single call. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates the activities of diplomatic missions operating abroad. In the field of information, we must all speak with one voice. We often do not notice how the day begins and ends.”
How was the information distributed to the external and internal audience, what goals were set, to what extent were the selected messages delivered? “The mobilization and division of duties was very quickly and operatively implemented since we had the experience of April war. Naturally, the same message and information of the same content were not presented to the external and internal audience, as the external audience has its preferences, its requirement, and the requirements of the internal audience are completely different. The division of responsibilities, that is, who should work on this or that audience, was done quite quickly. We were able to fully present our position to the international community, and received a corresponding response, except for special cases, which were not surprising to us.”
Where there any cases of misinformation or any speculations? “There were quite a few speculations as such, much less than we see in non-emergency situations. There was mutual responsibility for what issue we are dealing with, and awareness what kind of problem may cause each speculation. The information of state importance must be checked, it is directly related to our security, the responsibility of the media and the department must be bilateral in that respect. Our primary goal was to be the main source of the information, to be reliable, operative in terms of presenting our priorities and positions to both internal and external audiences, which also allows us to avoid any manipulation or misinformation. Secondly, we should clearly understand what our priorities are, what are the issues of concern to us.
When working with information, it is very important for all participants to have a clear assessment, as it has both creative and destructive potential, and that should be considered as the basis of responsibility when dealing with the information.”
How would you evaluate the work with our media field? “Armenian journalists are quite demanding, especially on such days. There was a very high level of cooperation by Armenian journalists, I consider the international one separately. There was a general perception of work, bilateral information. We received many calls, but we use social media platforms to communicate with journalists more: they were sending us inquiries quite actively these days. The problem is that some representatives of our media field do not fully perceive how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs works and what issues it deals with. There have been cases when the central office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the inquiry, after which they have asked what the embassy thinks about that topic, without realizing that the embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are one structure, even though the embassy building is in the territory of another country, it is an inseparable part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
To the question how free the spokesperson is, Anna Naghdalyan answered: “The spokesperson has a certain freedom, of course: no one writes a text, so as he/she reads it, but there is a certain general line, direction, to which the spokesperson must remain faithful. As a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, I never make any statement, comment or position that does not reflect my approach to the issue as a diplomat and a citizen.”