About

New Naratif is a movement for democracy, freedom of information and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia. We aim to make Southeast Asians proud of our region, our shared culture, and our shared history. We fight for the dignity and freedom of the Southeast Asian people by building a community of people across the region to imagine and articulate a better Southeast Asia. If you’d like to write, draw, or record a video or podcast for us, please pitch us your idea.

We do this by:

providing Southeast Asians with information, in accessible formats and languages, about important issues that we collectively face; 

empowering people to create change by bringing them together, creating space and building capacity for positive change; and

Building a community of like-minded Southeast Asians who act collectively for positive change.


Manifesto

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New Naratif explains, educates, and empowers.

Southeast Asia is complicated, heterogeneous, and multifaceted. It is divided along numerous political, class, religious, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic lines. At the same time, authoritarian governments are intolerant of alternative perspectives. Establishment interests openly and proudly seek to keep citizens ignorant, apathetic, and confused. The media is largely heavily controlled and censored. This keeps citizens in a state which allows governments to not only impose authoritarian and anti-democratic practices, but to justify such policies by citing citizens’ ignorance and apathy.

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New Naratif challenges oversimplification and stereotyping

The news tends to be dominated by soundbites, stereotypes, and clichés. The English-language media is also often Western-centric, resulting in coverage of Southeast Asia that relies on easy tropes pandering to the interests and assumptions of Western audiences. New Naratif challenges this oversimplification of ideas and perceptions, placing less emphasis on what is trending and more on what is truly relevant.

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New Naratif is openly subjective

New Naratif requires our correspondents to be engaged in the world they’re reporting on. Often, attempts at objectivity result in a reporting model which provides false equivalence between two opposing sources. Our correspondents strive to be fair, accurate, and independent, but also explicit about the values and assumptions underlying what they write, and candid about their particular perspective on any given issue. They will evaluate, to the best of their ability, which side of a story is most credible, and exercise transparency regarding their judgments. Correspondents view the world from their own personal perspective and through the window of their particular interests. As an organisation, we have no common political ideology; as individuals, we look at the world through moral frameworks. New Naratif does not have an opinion, beyond our stated values of democracy, human rights, and social justice, but each correspondent certainly does.

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New Naratif stands for hope and solutions

News tends to make people feel cynical and powerless: “So much is wrong with the world, and I can’t do a thing about it.” New Naratif aims to counteract that effect with constructive journalism. This is a kind of journalism that not only brings problems and atrocities to our attention, but also proposes solutions—and ways to be part of those solutions. Constructive journalism is not the same as “good news.” It is journalism that strives both to hold up a mirror to our society and uses informed and research-based knowledge to get society moving. We encourage initiatives specifically meant to bring about positive societal change, and we hope to inspire people to believe in their society and work collaboratively for the greater good.

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New Naratif actively involves our members in the journalistic process

New Naratif does not simply broadcast information. We do not see journalism as a one-way street, but rather as a dialogue between journalists and members, particularly those with professional or personal expertise on a given topic. The point of that dialogue is to share knowledge and experience regarding key developments of our times. To this end, correspondents share their ideas for stories and invite feedback, keep members apprised of their research with newsletters and notifications, and avail themselves of members’ expertise and experience to better their journalistic work.

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New Naratif is free of ads

New Naratif is an ad-free platform. Disseminating messages (commercial or otherwise) for a fee is not permitted. We do not accept paid stories. Our business model is creating quality journalism for readers, not selling our readers to advertisers. New Naratif is, however, open to collaborating with partners who share our principles and contribute directly to our goals. Any such partnerships are subject to one non-negotiable condition: full academic freedom and editorial independence.

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New Naratif thinks in terms of individuals, not target groups

New Naratif aims to build a community of curious, engaged individuals who wish to understand the world and make it a better place. We do not aim to reach a specific group of people, particular demographic category, or particular political alignment. Anyone who subscribes to our journalistic principles and our vision, or who identifies with a given author and their worldview, is welcome to join.

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New Naratif is committed to an enduring relationship with our members

New Naratif simply would not exist without our members, and maintaining a sustainable relationship with them is our highest priority. New Naratif does not try to lure new members with benefits that existing members do not get. For the sake of editorial independence, members have no say over journalistic content, but they can provide input regarding both the course set by New Naratif and how we spend our resources. We continually take stock of member preferences, and we consult them when making major decisions about the platform.

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New Naratif does not make profits

New Naratif is published by Observatory Southeast Asia, a private company limited by guarantee. It cannot be bought or sold. It is non-profit enterprise. All revenues are reinvested in our work. This keeps New Naratif from becoming hostage to short-term profit motives. Returns are dedicated to our mission—not the other way around. Equally, it is an important principle that all content generators be paid for their content. A major flaw of the modern freelance economy is the lack of rights and protection of freelancers. New Naratif will not exploit freelancers. It will not solicit unpaid work for “exposure”. It will pay freelancers on time and in full.

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New Naratif strives for maximum diversity

Journalism editorial boards and research centres tend to be dominated by elites, and are culturally more one-sided than society as a whole. In order to change that, New Naratif has a diversity policy. Our goal is to become, as a journalistic platform, as diverse as possible, with many voices. We prefer to hire people who make our organisation more diverse in terms of cultural heritage, ethnicity, skin colour, academic degree, sexual preference, and political orientation. Our conviction is that our organisation will never be diverse enough. Diversity is not a target to reach; it is a continual endeavour.

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New Naratif believes in the privacy of our members

A common denominator for nearly all free services on the internet is that users pay for them by turning over their personal data. At New Naratif, our privacy policy prohibits us from collecting unnecessary personal information from our members. With respect to the data we do ask of our members, we apply the following criteria: 1) We collect only the data we are required by law to collect, or that is necessary for our platform to function correctly; 2) We do not sell this information to third parties; 3) Our reasons for collecting data must be explained clearly to our members; and 4) Wherever possible, members must have control over their own data.

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New Naratif is ambitious in its ideals, yet modest in its claims

New Naratif seeks to promote democracy, freedom of information, and freedom of the media. We believe in human rights, social justice, and individual human dignity. We seek great change, but we cannot do this alone. New Naratif is open to collaboration with governments, corporations, universities, the mainstream media, or any other actors who share our goals. We are mindful of our limitations and act with humility in the Southeast Asian spirit of collegiality and constructive engagement.


The Team

Charis Loke

COMICS EDITOR AND ILLUSTRATIONS EDITOR

Charis is an illustrator and editor who makes pictures that evoke wonder and curiosity. She’s worked on community arts and culture education programmes for youth. Her interests include how comic artists and illustrators exchange resources in their networks, capacity-building for comic artists and illustrators, and drawing as a research method.

Deborah Augustin

MEMBER ENGAGEMENT MANAGER

Deborah Germaine Augustin is a Malaysian writer and researcher. Previously, she worked as a Parliamentary Assistant for the MP of Kelana Jaya. She is currently working on a cross-genre chapbook about immigration in the United States.

Ellena Ekarahendy

ART AND DESIGN MANAGER

Ellena is an art director, graphic designer, and illustrator based in Jakarta, Indonesia. As a believer of good designs for good deeds, most of her creative works integrate design thinking and practices with sociopolitical discourses.

Fadhilah Primandari

democracy researcher

Fadhilah is a researcher reading democratisation, discursive politics, and feminist methodology. Her personal research projects centre on the gendered aspects of democratic transitions and consolidations. When she is not working, she enjoys reading detective novels, writing fiction, and painting.

Jacob Goldberg

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Jacob Goldberg is a journalist based in Thailand. He previously worked as Managing Editor of Coconuts Yangon. His reporting on human rights and natural disasters in Southeast Asia has appeared in The Guardian, VICE and Columbia Journalism Review. He has received two awards from the Society of Publishers in Asia.

Kelly Anissa

EDITOR (BAHASA MELAYU/MALAYSIA) AND PODCASTS EDITOR

Kelly Anissa is a journalist based in Malaysia. Previously, Kelly worked as a producer and presenter at BFM 89.9, a Malaysian radio station for current affairs. She has done work on a wide range of areas, covering environmental issues, policy and legal reforms in Malaysia, regional politics and health journalism. Outside of work, Kelly works on short films.

Matt Surrusco

DEPUTY EDITOR

Based in Phnom Penh since 2016, Matt Surrusco is a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer. Matt has reported from New York, Jerusalem and Phnom Penh, and also has worked as a copy editor and youth development professional, empowering young people through journalism and community service.

Sahnaz Melasandy

FREELANCER COMMUNITY ORGANISER

Sahnaz is a community organiser, researcher, and freelance translator based in Indonesia. She spends most of her time reading, and is passionate about human rights, social movement, gender, literary, and arts. She co-founded a book club called LiteraSEA focusing on Southeast Asian literature, with members based in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Sarah Hana

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Sarah F. Hana is a pop-culture savvy freelance translator who is enthusiastic about media and gender studies. Outside work, she likes to review food and play with her three cats.

Sonny Liew

Co-Founder

Sonny Liew’s New York Times bestseller The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a winner of 3 Eisner Awards, and was the first graphic novel to win the Singapore Literature Prize. He was a recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award in 2010, and his works include The Shadow Hero (with Gene Yang), Doctor Fate (with Paul Levitz) and Malinky Robot, along with titles for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Disney Press and First Second Books. Born in Malaysia, he lives in Singapore.  

Thum Ping Tjin

MANAGING DIRECTOR

Thum Ping Tjin (“PJ”) is Managing Director of New Naratif and founding director of Project Southeast Asia, an interdisciplinary research centre on Southeast Asia at the University of Oxford. A Rhodes Scholar, Commonwealth Scholar, Olympic athlete, and the only Singaporean to swim the English Channel, his work centres on Southeast Asian governance and politics. His most recent work is Living with Myths in Singapore (Ethos: 2017, co-edited with Loh Kah Seng and Jack Chia). He is creator of “The History of Singapore” podcast, available on iTunes. 

Yap Yi Peng

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER

Yap Yi Peng is a freelance writer, researcher and trend forecaster, specialising in digital media and marketing. During her time at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she worked closely with the institute’s Writing Studio as a peer tutor to produce a guide on inclusive language that covered alternatives and methods to combat oppressive and harmful language. She is also working towards creating an interactive workshop on the aforementioned topic to educate the importance of communication by recalibrating our subconscious assumptions.

New Naratif is published by Observatory Southeast Asia Ltd (John Eccles House, Science Park, Robert Robinson Ave, Littlemore, Oxford OX4 4GP). For more information, please email feedback@newnaratif.com.