The web portal Dooz offers more than information: it's also aiming to bring local citizens and their politicians closer together. Dooz is supported by DW Akademie and is part of the GIZ's larger project "Go Local".
The portal went online late last year, initially with its own Facebook page and since January as a wordpress-based website. Dooz is a multimedia news and exchange platform focusing exclusively on local topics; it's also unique given that Palestinian media mainly focus on major international issues. "We report on topics that directly affect people, on topics that literally happen on their doorsteps," says Dooz editor Majdoleen Hassouna. "Citizens can also use the platform to voice their concerns." Majdoleen Hassouna is one of three editors in charge in the young Dooz team.
Dooz is being supported by DW Akademie and is part of a larger project by the German development organization GIZ. "Go Local" is to promote good governance by developing and applying new tools for good governance, and thus pave the way for more transparency and political participation. The GIZ is planning public hearings, for example, so that citizens will have an opportunity to voice and discuss their concerns with their local government representatives. The greater Nablus district includes some 60 villages and four large refugee camps.
"Until now there has hardly been any exchange between citizens and politicians," says Verena Wendisch, DW Akademie Country Coordinator for Palestine. "People have very little faith in their local government." When it comes to financial questions, she points out, there is basically no transparency. The public hearings are aimed at promoting dialogue and accountability. The Dooz journalists will report on the hearings and offer a wide range of related, multi-media information.
The Dooz team has developed creative journalistic formats to attract a young audience and offer appealing and reliable regional news. Personalized stories or segments such as "If I was the mayor I would…" offer citizens an opportunity to voice their issues; service announcements and upcoming events calendars are updated on a daily baisis. There is also a segment called "I'm in charge" where politicians respond to questions on a specific topic. "The aim is to prepare citizens for the public hearings, to sensitize them to important issues and to make sure they have all the background information they need to participate in discussions," says DW Akademie trainer and project manager, Abed Othman.
Motivated and dedicated
The editorial team is also well prepared. Since November 2013 DW Akademie has held a number of workshops focusing on online and local journalism as part of the overall "Go Local" project. Political communication workshops are also planned. "The team is incredibly motivated," says Abed Othman. "They've put the platform together and are so dedicated that they're working on it in addition to their regular jobs." The 20 team members are regional journalists and journalism students at the An-Najah University in Nablus. After the "Go Local" project is completed Dooz will be supported by the university's Media Center. DW Akadamie media expert Manuela Römer is on-site for the duration of the project, which is being conducted on behalf of Germany's Centre for International Migration and Development.
The first steps towards more dialogue and transparency were taken in January when the Dooz team interviewed both the mayor and the governor of Nablus. "This was remarkable because politicians usually steer clear of the media," says Abed Othman. The first public hearing is scheduled for the end of March and editors are expecting a large turnout. The hearing will be recorded and available on Dooz.