About New Naratif

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.

What We Do

A common refrain heard across Southeast Asia is the idea that ordinary citizens cannot make a difference: “What can I do?”. New Naratif was founded in 2017 as a response. We build a better Southeast Asia by empowering Southeast Asians with the knowledge and skills they need to address our shared challenges and take collective action.

In a short period of time, New Naratif has produced a wide range of important articles about Southeast Asia in a variety of languages and formats, organised events across four different countries, partnered with a range of local civil society organisations, and grown into a nearly 1,000 strong movement. We’ve made major contributions to the political discourse in Singapore and Malaysia, and brought to light new perspectives in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, among others. For this, we’ve been attacked, threatened, and even had writers and contributors arrested and sent to jail.

How We Create Change

Permanent positive change needs to be driven by the people of Southeast Asia working together. We build capacity for 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
  • advocating for and modelling ethical, moral, and progressive values rooted in the Southeast Asian context. 

In this way, we help Southeast Asians collectively build a better Southeast Asia.

Our Work

We produce impactful work on political discourse and understanding across Southeast Asia. 

Examples include:

  1. Explainers which illuminate complicated, contested issues to our audience, e.g.What’s going on in West Papua? / Apa yang terjadi di Papua? on the Indonesian occupation of West Papua and its struggle for self-determination.
  2. Original research which sheds light on issues, especially issues which governments don’t want reported, e.g. How Malaysia’s Election is Being Rigged / Bagaimana pilihan raya di Malaysia disalah atur explained how the then-Barisan Nasional government was trying to rig the redistricting process ahead of Malaysia’s General Elections
  3. Reporting on issues from different perspectives across the region, that allow us to tell a more complete story, e.g. How do you interview God? (and Part 2) / Gimana cara mewawancarai Tuhan? (dan Bagian Dua). Our correspondents in Medan and Jakarta collaborated to produce these articles and incorporate both the local and national perspective to explain the deeper context of the blasphemy charge and conviction.
  4. Stories which explore perspectives which no one else will explore and publish, e.g. The Making of a Female ISIS Bomber / Bagaimana ISIS Mencetak Seorang Bomber Perempuan Pertama di Indonesia, an interview with the first female ISIS suicide bomber. She failed and is currently in prison.
  5. Stories which highlight the diversity of Southeast Asia, in the voices of Southeast Asians, e.g. One Day Out / Satu Hari Tanpa Sembunyi, a story by a closeted gay Muslim woman and her decision to not come out.
  6. Democracy classrooms which bring together Southeast Asians to discuss important issues in an atmosphere of respect, e.g. Protest and Public Order: A discussion on how a balance can be struck between law and order and the freedom to assemble in physical spaces.
  7. Videos which explain complicated issues in an entertaining way, e.g. The Show with PJ Thum.


New Naratif’s impact on the independent and online media landscape in Southeast Asia has been covered by a number of publications, including the Southeast Asia Globe, the New York Review of Books, the Atlantic, and Splice. 

“In being highly transparent, regularly gathering and learning from its community members in person, and being a trusted watchdog in its coverage, New Naratif is an organization to watch.”

Emily Goligoski, The Membership Puzzle Project  

“Yet rather than be cowed by the scale of what they face, New Naratif seems energised… It has a relationship with its readers like no one else in the media… It’s an example of the extraordinary level of innovation going on in the [Southeast Asian] region. 

Duncan Greive, The Spinoff

“Let’s try and coin a new label here. Let’s call [these publications] ‘interest transparent’. New Naratif is at the forefront of this thinking.” 

Alan Soon, founder of Splice Media

The Team


Aisyah Llewellyn is a British freelance writer based in Medan, Indonesia, and New Naratif’s Editor-in-Chief. She is a former diplomat and writes primarily about Indonesian politics, culture, travel and food. Reach her at aisyah.llewellyn@newnaratif.com.

Charis Loke


Charis is an illustrator based in Penang, Malaysia. Drawing upon literature and visual culture, she makes pictures that evoke wonder and curiosity. As a member of Arts-ED, she also works on community arts and culture education programmes for youth. Charis is Comics Editor and Illustrations Editor for New Naratif. Reach her at charis.loke@newnaratif.com  

Deborah Augustin


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. She is New Naratif’s Member Engagement Manager. Reach her at deborah.augustin@newnaratif.com.  


Ellena is an art director, graphic designer, illustrator, and copywriter based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her creative works revolve around social-cultural issues including human rights, gender justice, freedom of expressions, and media literacy. As New Naratif’s Design Editor, you can reach her at ellena.ekarahendy@newnaratif.com.


Erik Nadir is hard to put in a box; he worked in multiple disciplines in search of home—but always found himself in the intersection of research, education, and storytelling. Throughout his career, he is mostly attracted to jobs he thinks are groundbreaking. He is the Marketing & Outreach Manager of New Naratif. Reach him at erik.nadir@newnaratif.com.


Kelly Anissa is a journalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is New Naratif’s Editor (Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia) and Podcasts Editor. 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. You can reach her at kelly.anissa@newnaratif.com.


Matt Surrusco is New Naratif’s Deputy Editor. Based in Phnom Penh since 2016, he’s also a freelance reporter and journalism lecturer. Matt has reported from New York, Jerusalem and Phnom Penh, and has worked as a copy editor and youth development professional, empowering young people through journalism and community service. Reach him at matt.surrusco@newnaratif.com.  


Minxi Chua is a Malaysian writer, editor, translator and researcher. She has studied and worked in Beijing, New York, Singapore, and Manchester; and, for much of this time, has been writing a novel on mental illness, the postcolonial Malaysian psyche, intergenerational female trauma, and chickens. She is New Naratif’s Operations Manager. Reach her at minxi.chua@newnaratif.com.  

Ranto Sibarani - New Naratif


Ranto Sibarani is a human rights lawyer based in Medan, Indonesia. He has worked for over 10 years on the management board of KontraS in North Sumatra, a commission for disappeared peoples and victims of violence. Experienced in social and humanitarian work, he has been active in the North Sumatra Provincial Legislature as an expert in the Law and Government Commission for the past five years. He’s currently completing his Masters thesis on the rejection of the death penalty in Indonesia. Email: ranto.sibarani@newnaratif.com  


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 (“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. Reach him at pingtjin.thum@newnaratif.com.


Yap Yi Peng is a freelance writer, researcher, and trend forecaster, specializing in digital media and marketing. She is New Naratif’s Social Media Manager. 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. Reach her at yipeng.yap@newnaratif.com.

New Naratif is published by Observatory Southeast Asia (7200 The Quorum, Oxford Business Park North, Oxford OX4 2JZ, UK). For more information, please email feedback@newnaratif.com.