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How Dosie.mk uses its platform to advocate for change on behalf of…

How Dosie.mk uses its platform to advocate for change on behalf of vulnerable groups

Plus an insight into how they've been continuing to engage with marginalised communities during COVID-19

background

This case study was first published in Engagement Explained, a newsletter that brings you in-depth and practical engaged journalism case studies from news organisations across Europe. Sign up here to receive the next edition in your inbox.

In a nutshell

Dosie.mk is an online media outlet based in North Macedonia which reports on issues affecting underrepresented groups, such as people in prison, in order to hold decision makers accountable for their conditions.

Background

  • Established in 2010, Dosie.mk is an online media outlet covering the whole of North Macedonia. It publishes articles and videos daily on its website and through its social media channels.
  • Dosie.mk’s mission is to be a platform for the people, not for politicians. Its founder, Kristina Mackic, was motivated to set up Dosie.mk as she felt that vulnerable people in North Macedonia needed a platform which would report on their everyday lives and give them a space to talk about their experiences. The organisation’s founding statement translates as “your side of the truth and leave no one behind”.
  • Dosie.mk finds content by posting call-outs to readers on social media and through its website, encouraging them to share their stories. It will often ask for readers with lived experience of a specific issue to come forward, providing anonymity and secure communication to ensure people are protected when they share information with the platform. Any stories submitted to Dosie.mk are fact-checked and verified before being published, and in most cases the organisation will send a reporter out to meet the people that are contributing.
  • Dosie.mk works closely with local NGOs, who help its reporters to make contact with harder to reach communities and provide local context for their stories.
  • In-person engagement has been vital to the success of Dosie.mk. By travelling around North Macedonia and meeting with people from marginalised groups, Mackic and her reporters are able to gain the trust of people they want to support, helping them feel comfortable sharing personal information about their experiences.
  • Mackic aims to generate practical results for the individuals she interviews by publishing human-centred stories which draw attention to the specific challenges facing people in North Macedonia. This generates public interest in these cases and places pressure on authorities to take action and take greater responsibility for the conditions of marginalised and underrepresented groups. In the past, projects such as My Secret Dosie and Behind Bars have generated real life change for women and people in prisons by giving them a chance to tell their stories and raise awareness of their conditions with decision makers and people who have the power to effect change.
  • Dosie.mk is not reliant on advertising and is financed partially through grant funding from international funders (such as USAID) and partly through personal investment from the founder.
  • Dosie.mk gives opportunities to young trainee journalists by allowing them to work in the field with its reporters. Trainees are supported to write for Dosie.mk and have their articles checked by the whole team, who provide feedback and support them to improve their journalism.
  • Currently, Dosie.mk employs one full-time journalist, two journalists on a contract basis, and two freelance journalists.
  • In May, Dosie.mk received an Emergency Fund grant of €25,000 from the European Journalism Centre through the European Journalism COVID-19 Support Fund.

How did they do it?

  • Dosie.mk has sections on its website dedicated to ‘focussed reporting’ on issues affecting specific marginalised groups. These article series, which can last several months or several years, allow Dosie to create a wider picture of the kinds of challenges and inequalities facing these groups in North Macedonia. My Secret Dosie and Behind Bars are examples of the kind of focussed reporting projects the organisation has carried out.
  • Between February and July 2019, Dosie ran My Secret Dosie: a series of articles raising awareness of issues affecting women in North Macedonia. The articles would often focus on one specific case affecting a woman whose experience indicated something about the wider challenges faced by women in the country.
  • The project was set up to address the lack of opportunities for women to speak out about their problems and be taken seriously. Mackic explained that women are afraid to talk publicly or with institutions when they have an issue, as they are afraid they will not be listened to or believed.
  • Initially, Mackic struggled to find women who would talk publicly about their lives, therefore the My Secret Dosie required a lot of fieldwork and promotion on social media in order to find people who were comfortable sharing their experiences. Despite this challenge, Dosie.mk published 40 articles over six months which covered stories of domestic violence, discrimination and inadequate medical care. Now women approach Dosie to ask them to help tell their story.
  • This project was funded by USAID, and it is now on hiatus while more funding is sought to continue it.
  • Behind Bars is a section of Dosie.mk’s website which is dedicated to reporting on issues related to the prison system in North Macedonia, in particular highlighting the poor conditions inside the prisons. It has been running since Dosie.mk was launched and does not receive specific grant funding.
  • Before launching Dosie.mk, Mackic reported on the court and the prison system in North Macedonia. Through this work, she met people in prisons who told her about poor conditions inside, such as the lack of facilities and beds, abuses of power or limited access to medical care. Mackic decided to dedicate a section of Dosie.mk to reporting on these issues, giving people in prisons a chance to write directly about their concerns.
  • Whistleblowers are guaranteed anonymity when writing to and for the platform. Most of the people who contribute to this section are in prison or are relatives of prisoners.
  • This group is rarely given a platform to advocate for their rights or speak out about their situation. Mackic explained that North Macedonian prisons have been criticised for their poor conditions, but that without external pressure the situation inside was unlikely to change. Behind Bars has generated increased public interest in this topic and Mackic believes that this has led authorities to take a more serious approach to improve the conditions in prisons in North Macedonia.
A camera operator from the Dosie.mk team operating a drone while reporting in the field

What did they learn?

  • Many of Dosie’s articles have resulted in real life impact for the people they feature, such as women being transported to better hospitals, receiving better care or being listened to and assisted by authorities and institutions who had previously ignored their requests for help.
  • Out of the 40 stories published as part of My Secret Dosie, Mackic estimates that 30 generated some degree of positive impact for the person featured, such as the government, local authorities and NGOs helping the women with practical support and finding solutions to their problems.
  • The team at Dosie.mk are very careful to verify all the stories and accounts they publish, and where possible to back up the stories with videos in order to ensure that their articles cannot be dismissed as fake news by institutions or authorities who do not want the issues they are tackling to be exposed.
  • Although Dosie.mk’s regular readership includes members of local and national governments, Mackic is considering creating a mailing list of key decision makers who she can email directly if the team publishes is a specific story which requires action. This direct targeting would ensure that the correct people are made aware of the problems citizens are facing and would be held accountable for resolving them.
  • Mackic hopes to find funding to run a bigger Behind Bars project which would allow her to gain access to the 15 prisons located in North Macedonia to report on these conditions herself, and produce more reporting, video and digital content about the situation inside. She is also seeking funding to run a version of My Secret Dosie which focuses specifically on uncovering and highlighting stories about domestic violence in North Macedonia.
  • Mackic wants to create more opportunities for young journalists to work with the organisation, and to train them through in the field reporting experience. She especially want to train young journalists communication skills which would allow them to connect with different groups of people, from people in prisons to people in government. She sees this as an essential skill for a journalist working to fulfil Dosie.mk’s mission of holding power to account and reporting on issues affecting marginalised groups.

How has engagement changed during COVID-19?

  • Dosie.mk is currently working on a large scale mapping project, funded by the grant it received from the EJC in May. The team are mapping areas in North Macedonia where communities lack adequate access to water and basic sanitation infrastructure. The groups most affected by this are Roma people and people living below the poverty line.
  • Dosie.mk’s reporters have been working with these groups to document their limited access to basic services during the pandemic. The team intend to use the results of this project to create a map which informs decision makers of vulnerable regions which require special attention and support to help the people there stay safe and healthy during the pandemic. Outputs of this project will include a map which will be presented to government departments, news articles linked to the project and printed leaflets distributed among targeted communities with up to date information about how they can protect themselves from COVID-19 within their limited means.
  • This project has been accompanied by a series of articles and videos looking at how vulnerable groups, especially Roma people, have been affected by the pandemic. These articles have highlighted problems such as inadequate access to electricity and barriers to participating in online schooling.

In their own words

Kristina Mackic

Kristina Mackic, founder, Dosie.mk

“The portal Dosie.mk was established with one basic goal, to be a portal of the people, not of politics. For that reason, the message on the portal is “Your side of the truth” [...] Considering that politics is the top media topic in the Balkans and in North Macedonia, the portal has found its place by reporting on topics that are directly related to everyday life.”

How would you improve it?

“Оur portal strives to develop the idea of involving young people in the process of making news. We believe that the information and the opportunity for the authorities to find out the local problems first hand will increase many times over and thus we as a portal will be a link between the government and the people, especially the young population.”

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