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About

New Naratif is democratising democracy 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:

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

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

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


Manifesto

1/12
New Naratif engages, 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. Information channels are heavily controlled, censored, and regulated in diverse ways. 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. New Naratif pushes back against this by empowering Southeast Asians to take control of their lives and create positive changes.

2/12
New Naratif challenges oversimplification and stereotyping

Coverage on Southeast Asia is often Western-centric, largely dominated by soundbites, stereotypes, and clichés. This results in Southeast Asia coverage 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 important today and more on what is important every day.

3/12
New Naratif is openly subjective

New Naratif requires our contributors and team members to be engaged in the world whose stories they’re telling. Often, attempts at objectivity result in a storytelling model which provides false equivalence between two opposing sources. Our contributors and team members strive to be fair, accurate, and independent, but also explicit about the values and assumptions underlying what they produce and disseminate, and are 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. Contributors and team members may view the world from their own personal perspective and through the window of their particular interests, but as an organisation, New Naratif believes in democracy, human rights, social justice, and equal dignity for all.

4/12
New Naratif stands for hope and solutions

The state of the world and mainstream media can 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 our three-step process: engage, educate, and empower. We believe a better world is possible, so we provide information that not only brings problems to your attention, but also brings people together through our community engagement and civic participation activities for seeking collective solutions. Through this process, we strive to hold up a mirror to our society and get people 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.

5/12
New Naratif encourages our members to be actively involved in our process

We see our process of engaging, educating, and empowering as a dialogue between our team and our members, particularly community members 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 and to then collectively work to create a better world. To this end, team members actively invite feedback, keep members apprised of our progress with updates via the members-only newsletter, and avail themselves of members’ expertise and experience to better our movement for democratic change. Most of all, we believe in Southeast Asians, and that empowering all Southeast Asians to take collective action to assert agency over their own lives can only lead to a better world.

6/12
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 a movement that people want to be members of, not selling our audience to advertisers or commercial establishments. 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 organisational independence.

7/12
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 collectively take action to make it a better place. We do not aim to reach a specific group of people, particular demographic category, or particular political alignment. We strive to look at Southeast Asians as diverse individuals, rather than dividing the region into aggregated groups such as nationality, race, religion, or language. Anyone who subscribes to our principles and vision is welcome to join.

8/12
New Naratif is committed to an enduring relationship with our members

New Naratif exists for our members. We simply would not exist without them. 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. We welcome input from our members regarding both the course set by New Naratif and how we spend our resources. In particular, members are encouraged to regularly provide feedback regarding our editorial outputs, community events, and democracy classrooms. As we are a small team, we can only implement suggestions and feedback on a case by case basis.

9/12
New Naratif does not make profits

New Naratif is published by Observatory Southeast Asia Ltd, a private company limited by guarantee. It cannot be bought or sold. It is a not-for-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 contributors be paid for any forms of their work. 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.

10/12
New Naratif strives for maximum diversity

Our goal is to become a movement for democracy, 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.

11/12
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.

12/12
New Naratif is ambitious in its ideals, yet modest in its claims

New Naratif seeks to promote democracy in Southeast Asia. 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, media organisations, 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

Bonni Rambatan

Editorial MANAGER

Bonnibel Rambatan has been founding and leading content strategy for various organisations for over a decade. Having worked in fields of journalism, media analysis, and critical theory, their experience in content production has spanned various industries: novels, film, television, comics, online videos, and podcasts. An independent scholar and artist, they are passionate about finding new possibilities for solidarity and liberation. Their most recent book Event Horizon: Sexuality, Politics, Online Culture, and the Limits of Capitalism (co-written with Jacob Johanssen, published by Zer0 Books in 2022) asks the question: “When our desires become the product of tech giants, what ways are there left for us to dream?”

Charleen Tan

Civic Participation MANAGER

Charleen is passionate about social issues and designing frameworks for change. She believes in empowerment and wants to see a future where more people step up to bring change to their communities. In her free time, she writes and edits, collaborating with local creatives to develop their own stories.

Ellena Ekarahendy

DESIGN MANAGER

Ellena is a design and communications strategist who believes in good design for good deeds. Her creative practices in the last decade have been integrating analytical design thinking with social and political discourses. With expertise in design for social change, she was nominated as 2022 So(cial) Good Design Awards Winner by RGD Canada. She lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, with her houseplants and adorable turtles.

Marsha Batubara

Community Administrator

Marsha is passionate about digital media and social interactions that emerge within its scope. Currently pursuing her Master’s degree in New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the ever-expanding terrain of digital interactions. During her free time, she likes to explore new series and movies.

Mufqi Hutomo

Digital designer

Mufqi is a freelance graphic designer based in Bandung, Indonesia. Majoring in Visual Communication Design, he spends most of his time collaborating on various multidisciplinary projects/voluntary activities. During his free time, he also follows his interest in record production with his friends in a cooperative-based independent label in Bandung, for stress relief.

Sarah Hana

Operations coordinator

Sarah Hana is a freelance translator and market researcher based in Indonesia. She is passionate about media and gender studies and is well-versed in digital media monitoring & analysis and content creation. Outside of work, she likes to review food, play The Sims 4 for at least 3 hours, and hang out 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.  

Tham Wai Liang

Freedom of expression researcher

Tham Wai Liang is an editor and currently a literary scholar-in-training, with a particular interest in memory studies. He has been published in the Southeast Asian Review of English and co-curated the “Transpacific – An Asian-Canadian Literary Journey” exhibition.”

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. An award-winning writer, Rhodes Scholar, Commonwealth Scholar, Olympic athlete, and the only Singaporean to swim the English Channel, his work centres on Southeast Asian governance and politics.

Yap Yi Peng

community 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.