Welcome to New Naratif! This page explains who we are, what we do, and why you should join us.
Who we are
New Naratif is a movement for democracy, freedom of expression, and freedom of information in Southeast Asia. We are based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and we have offices in Medan and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Our goal is to empower Southeast Asians by giving them the information and tools to be fully engaged and participatory citizens.
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.
For more information on our goals and beliefs, about read our Manifesto.
“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
We seek to understand Southeast Asia by
conducting research such as The Citizens’ Agenda, which seeks to understand what the people of Southeast Asia consider the most important issues facing our region;
publishing original research on our region; and
making academic research about Southeast Asia accessible, by rewriting it for the lay reader and in Southeast Asian languages (see below for examples).
Here are some of our articles which demonstrate what we do:
Publishing original academic research which sheds light on issues, especially issues which governments don’t want reported
The Duterte Playbook, which demonstrated how Philippines President Duterte’s rhetoric of “drugs and crime” was a smokescreen for using violence for political control. This strategy dated back to his Mayoralty of Davao City.
Reporting on an issue from different perspectives across the region, that allow us to tell a more complete story
How do you interview God? (and Part 2) / Gimana cara mewawancarai Tuhan? (dan Bagian Dua), about an Indonesian who was convicted of blasphemy for asking her neighbourhood mosque to slightly turn down its speakers. 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.
“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
We hold events to try and empower the people of Southeast Asia to equip them to make positive change in their communities and become fully engaged, participatory citizens.
We also take part in workshops, festivals, and other events promoting human rights, freedom of information, and freedom of speech in Southeast Asia, such as Freedom Film Fest, Cooler Lumpur, and Splice Beta; and academic events such as the ASEAN Forum in Sydney and the European Association of Southeast Asian Studies’ biennial conference.
We also hold open online meetings every month, hosted by Managing Director PJ Thum, to allow all members and anyone interested in New Naratif to ask questions of us. The meetings are usually held online twice in a single day at 10am SGT (9pm EST) and 7pm SGT (11am GMT) to allow people all around the world to call in.
We do these because if a tiny organisation with no full time staff and next to no resources can be transparent and accountable, why not governments, multinational corporations, and sovereign wealth funds?
“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
Membership and our Financial Model
Our movement is supported primarily by our members, who pay a membership fee of between US$52/year and US$552/year (or US$5/month to US$49/month). All members are treated equally regardless of level of subscription. We also accept donations and grants on condition of full management and editorial independence. Please see our transparency reports for a full accounting of our finances.
As such, members do not join to gain access—all of our content is easily available for free. Members join because they share our values, and want to support our movement. Members help us with our research, via focus groups to shape the surveys and volunteer to publicise content; they help shape our content, by deciding upon our themes, reviewing and commenting on our drafts, and acting as resources for our reporting; and they take part in our events and participate in our citizenship empowerment events.