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
- 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
- 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.
- How Discrimination Kills Gay Men in Singapore, in response to the official PAP government statement that LGBTQ individuals do not suffer any negative consequences of the legal ban on gay sex (Section 377A of the Penal Code).
Translating academic research into accessible formats and languages
- The Filipino Catholic Nun as Transnational Feminist (adapted from Mina Roces (2008) The Filipino Catholic Nun as Transnational Feminist, Women’s History Review, 17:1, 57-78, DOI: 10.1080/09612020701447657).
- Foundations laid, Directions Set (adapted from Michael Barr, Singapore: A Modern History (I.B. Tauris, 2019)).
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.
- Hawker Culture, on both sides of the Causeway / Budaya Penjaja di Sebelah Sini dan Sana Tambak, about food culture in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and what unites the twin capitals of Malaya, done via reporting from a Singaporean and a Malaysian based in the respective cities.
Stories which explore perspectives which no one else will explore and publish
- 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.
- (Podcast) Road To Raqqa Part 1 / Part 2, an interview with an Indonesian who went to Syria to join ISIS and returned.
- (Podcast) Political Agenda: What’s up with Singapore’s Bicentennial?, a discussion with minorities in Singapore who have a different perspective on Singapore’s commemoration of the 200th anniversary of its colonisation in 1819.
Stories which highlight the diversity of Southeast Asia, in the voices of Southeast Asians
- (comic) One Day Out / Satu Hari Tanpa Sembunyi, a story by a closeted gay Muslim woman and her decision to not come out.
- (comic) My Name Is… / (Versi Bahasa Indonesia), a reflection by Iskandar Salim, a Chinese-Indonesian, on names, politics, culture and identity in Indonesia.
Explainers which illuminate complicated, contested issues to our audience
- Explainer: 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.
- Explainer: The Ahmadiyya in Indonesia / Sebuah Pengenalan dengan umat Ahmadiyah Indonesia about one of the most oppressed minority Muslim groups in Indonesia.
- Our ongoing series of political concepts:
- What is Politics? (and why we can’t get away from it)
- Political Power, Authority, and Force
- Why Is the Protection of Minorities Important?
- Toleration, or Living with Disagreement & Difference
- What is Democracy?
“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.
- Democracy classrooms, where we discuss complicated issues in safe, constructive, environments. Here’s one early example. During the covid-19 crisis, we began holding them online. Here’s a report of our first online Democracy Classroom (with a video of the introduction)!
- Journalism workshops, to increase capacity for independent journalism across Southeast Asia.
- Here’s a list of recent events, including discussion fora, film screenings, and seminars.
- 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.
Be a part of our community! Please see our list of upcoming events.
Advocacy and Best Practice
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.
Most of our content is behind a paywall, but any member can share any article an unlimited number of times with anyone in the world. We freely share a lot of our content via our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, along with our Telegram groups (click here to join in English, Bahasa Indonesia, and Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia). In this way, we balance sustainability with access.
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.
For more information, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions. You can also follow us on YouTube. Join our mailing list to receive updates—newsletters go out every Thursday. If you’d like to write, draw, or record a video or podcast for us, please pitch us your idea.