Press Secretaries also bear the obligations of freedom of information responsible

“Media Advocate” initiative continues the series of interviews with the press secretaries and heads of the state agencies. This time our interlocutor is Davit Grigoryan, the Press Secretary of the Ministry of Environment.

You started your working activity as a journalist, you’ve worked as a news commentator, and now you are a press secretary. As a journalist, what problems did you encounter when dealing with press secretaries that you exclude from your work now?

In fact, in the course of my journalistic activity, when contacting with the press secretaries and speakers, I did not encounter any obstacles. When dealing with the state system and departments, we mutually work mostly in a partnership, even in a friendly atmosphere. Fortunately, I have to say that the public relations specialists involved in the media, who operate in the state system, are almost always professionals who tend to help rather than hinder. I do not have any vivid example when our cooperation with the spokesman of this or that department did not go smoothly or did not succeed.

The press secretary of the ministry is the face and voice of the structure. But how free is he in his words and actions?

Both the journalist and the press secretary have no right to be guided by subjective approaches. Both the speaker and the journalist are obliged to maintain neutrality, to be guided by the principle of ensuring versatility. It should be noted that the press secretaries working in the departments are not in fact the direct voice and face of the department, but the ones who maintain a combined, effective communication between the society and the department. The press secretary is a bridge between the citizen and the state. Press Secretaries, ex officio, bear the obligations of the Freedom of Information Responsible. I can state with confidence that there is no situation when the Ministry of Environment restricts the right of the press secretary to speak. Everything must go according to the logic of institutional work. The speakers are public relations specialists or other specialists of the field, whose advice is being heard, rather than guided and hindered.

You have been the News Commentator of the Public TV for about two months, you were selected as a result of a competition. What did that short period in the news outlet give you, what was the reason for leaving it? There used to be distrust in competitions, what has changed in this regard, are they fair in general?

Not two months, but almost half a year. I applied for the vacancy of “First Channel” news commentator because I was sure that the election would not take place based on the personal, individual and arbitrary desires. Many other worthy and skilled colleagues applied to the competition along with me. I was even convinced that I could not compete with them. I am a bit skeptical of myself. However, the competition committee preferred my candidacy, which was a pleasant surprise for me. It is difficult and extremely responsible to work on an hourly basis in any service, be it the news service of the “First Channel” or any other TV news service. I think that working in the media first allowed me to make friends with good professionals, then to improve my skills when working in various situations that require unpredictable and modern solutions.

And the reason for leaving is much simpler and more humane than many could have guessed. On the day of my first live broadcast, my twin babies were born, whose care took an unprecedented amount of energy. Constant sleepless nights and chronic exhaustion forced me to pause. The reason for leaving was the need to spend more time with my children, not the various conspiracy theories.

As the head of the public relations department of the Ministry of Environment and the press secretary, can you tell us about one working day, how many calls, inquiries and interview invitations you receive?

Like any journalist, the speaker also starts the morning with press publications. If there is no alarm from the media, after some research, work begins with organizing and conducting joint information campaigns with international partners, solving short-term issues of current campaigns and document circulation, as well as in parallel contacts with journalist colleagues. The working day can last up to 12 hours. Compared to other professional departments, we are obliged to be in touch 24 hours a day. The work never stops. There were even days when the phone rang more than 150 times.

What are the essential programs and priorities of the ministry? What important problems have been solved?

The main goal of the department is to create a healthy environment for all citizens of the Republic of Armenia. Nature conservation and protection is a multi-layered and multi-content field, where at least two dozen professional circles intersect.

From forest conservation to water resource management policy development, from waste management to reforestation, from air pollution assessments to subsoil use agenda development, from weather forecasting and monitoring to biodiversity restoration.
Currently, the priority directions are the speedy implementation of short-term recovery programs and the restoration of living resources of the Lake Sevan ecosystem. Active reforms are underway in the field of personnel policy. Work on forest resource management and regulation of the subsoil sector is also in the forefront. It is impossible to tell in two sentences or paragraphs what kind of massive work they implement.

How have the changes in the country affected freedom of speech?

Positively! The Institute of Freedom of Speech is strengthening its position as a fundamental and primary direction in the development and establishment of society. The citizen has the full right to hear comprehensive and substantiated opinions, the main tool of which is the media. As an official who works with the media on a daily basis, let me state that there is no situation when the mass media will not be able to get the information it needs from our department.

We are interested in being open and transparent, because that is when we will be able to deliver the messages and present the work implemented, which the Ministry of Environment will position in the society as a straightforward department, and the protection of the environment as a matter of priority.