In late October, the Yerevan Office communications team led a group of local journalists to Meghri, a city located in the southern province of Syunik by the Armenian-Iranian border, for the opening of the first Border Inspection Post, financed under the Avian Influenza Preparedness project. Journalists representing seven local media, including two TV stations, three news agencies, and two Armenian online news portals, joined the tour for a 400 km long trip to see the results of the Bank's work on the ground.
The newly constructed station aims to support the Armenian veterinary, food safety, and plant quarantine services to improve surveillance on the Armenian-Iranian border to limit the imports of contaminated food and infected animals. It also provides facilities for disinfection and decontamination of infected consignments. The Post allows for a continuous inspection of consignments with food and live animals.
At the Border Inspection Post opening ceremony, Country Manager Jean-Michel Happi and Minister of Agriculture Gerasim Alaverdyan welcomed the media and held a joint press conference. During the one-on-one interviews, the journalists asked Jean-Michel about the Bank's current project portfolio in Armenia, the future projects, and the country's macroeconomic and post-crisis recovery trends. Operations Officer Artavazd Hakobyan was available to answer the journalist's questions on the Avian Influenza Preparedness and the Rural Enterprise and Small-scale Commercial Agriculture Development projects.
During the tour, the communications team asked some of the journalists about their overall impressions, including whether they found the visit useful and how it enhanced their understanding of the work the Bank is doing in the country.Siranush Gevorgyan, a journalist from ArmeniaNow online, considered it to be a great opportunity to see how things are with her own eyes. "I found this trip very important and enriching. When you witness the actual event and are physically present on the site, your article becomes more credible and interesting, as compared to just reporting on a World Bank news conference held back in Yerevan," said Siranush. "Besides, the fact that I was able to speak in person to the Bank and government representatives in charge of the project, gave me a better understanding of what is being achieved on the ground."
Gagik Baghdasaryan, editor of a major local news agency ARKA, believes that media tours to project sites are critical to conveying information about the Bank's work and activities to the public. "Seeing the fruits of the work done on the ground gives the journalists a stance to speak about the results of the project from the point of view of an eye witness and, to some extent, as a participant. This adds more weight to our reports and articles," Gagik said. "I'd like to see more such tours, especially for large projects that support the development of entire sectors in the economy."
The media tour was organized as part of the Armenia Country Office public information services outreach program which focuses on working with a variety of stakeholders, such as the media, NGOs, youth, business community, academia, and the public at large. One of the program's goals is to raise awareness and understanding of the Bank's development objectives and its work program in Armenia. Project-specific outreach and, in particular, the media tours for targeted journalists, are some of the tools and strategies set out in the Armenia communications strategy to further the country program goals and operations.
"Media tours provide the journalists with a real sense and grasp of what is being done on the ground and how it is done. The results may not be as self-evident otherwise. They tell a story in a way that no off-site news briefings or press releases can. Speaking to project beneficiaries in the communities simply validates our messages," says Armine. The media tour format also helps the World Bank experts to develop better dialogue and communications with the journalists, and positions the Bank as a truly open, transparent, and knowledge institution.
The October trip to Meghri was one such example in the series of many such Bank-media outreach interactions. This calendar year, the Armenia communications team held several media site tours, including visits to the Alapars pumping station and to Charentsavan town in Kotayk province, under the Municipal Water and Wastewater project, and media visits to the medical centers of Ijevan, Armavir, and Ararat, under the Health System Modernization project. A visit was also organized to the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Yerevan, as part of showing the results of the Bank's work under the Avian Influenza Preparedness project.
The Armenian journalists stay tuned and ready for subsequent media tours to other World Bank project sites in the near future. The newly rehabilitated Goris Medical Center in Syunik province is the next planned tour on the Armenia World Bank Office's agenda.