Statement: Thank you Kirsten / New Naratif in the time of COVID-19

Author: Thum Ping Tjin

A message for New Naratif’s community:

1. Thank you Kirsten!

Kirsten Han has decided to step down from her role as Editor-in-Chief of New Naratif. As one of our founders, Kirsten was fundamental in the creation of this organisation and instrumental in building our movement from the ground up. New Naratif’s team, the Board, and I are all incredibly grateful to her for her work and leadership in establishing New Naratif as a platform to enable Southeast Asians to tell their own stories in their own languages. Her hard work and vision has enabled stories to come to light which would otherwise never have been told.

I want to thank Kirsten for her immense courage and all of her many contributions to New Naratif. We wish her nothing but the very best in all her future endeavours. We look forward to more stories from her in New Naratif, and will always cheer her on in her quest to tell important stories about Singapore. We may no longer be colleagues, but we will always be comrades in the fight for justice, democracy, and freedom in Southeast Asia.

Going forward, Aisyah Llewellyn will step up as interim Editor-in-Chief. New Naratif will continue to tell important stories from around Southeast Asia, and we have lots of new plans – watch this space! We thank all of you, and in particular our members, for your support in making all this possible.

Kirsten’s announcement to New Naratif members:

I’m writing this email to all of you to announce that I will be stepping down as Editor-in-Chief of New Naratif, and returning to writing and reporting on Singapore, as well as devoting more time to a book project I’ve been wanting to complete. My final day is 9 April. Aisyah Llewellyn has been appointed Interim Editor-in-Chief, and will take over the running of New Naratif’s editorial direction and content.

It’s been a real privilege to be part of New Naratif, and I’m incredibly proud of the work that we’ve done as a team over the past two-and-a-half years. All this would not have been possible without you, our members, readers, and supporters. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude for your belief in us, and to urge you to continue believing in and supporting the New Naratif team moving forward. The movement for democracy, freedom of expression, and freedom of information in Southeast Asia is as urgent and necessary as ever.

Thank you, everyone, for always having been so supportive.

2. New Naratif in the time of COVID-19

On a different, but no less important note: With the restrictions of movements and the suspension of events across the globe because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to let you, our members and readers, know how we are doing and what we plan to do in the days and weeks ahead.

First, we are committed to providing a safe environment for our writers, artists, and editors, their families and loved ones, and the communities they cover. Nothing is more important than keeping everyone safe. As an organisation, we have instructed everyone to work from home, minimise movement, and adhere to the latest recommendations from their local authorities and the World Health Organization. Even with our limited resources and constant struggle for funding, everyone is being maintained on full salary throughout this period and we have no plans to furlough staff or ask anyone to take no-pay leave.

Second, with the COVID-19 crisis continuing to unfold, we will do our best to ensure that all of our reporting is done in the safest way possible. We are mindful of the risks associated with our staff and freelancers doing any field reporting and research. At the same time, there are ongoing issues which still need attention and so we respect the right of our freelancers to go out and uncover important stories, and we will work with them if they choose to do so.

Third, we’re encouraging our team to be as creative as possible to find new ways we can reach out and fulfil our mission of informing and empowering our audience. Internally, we’ve started a discussion on how we can best use this difficult time to try some new ideas which we may not normally have tried. We’re encouraging team members to contribute inventive ideas to keep you engaged, amused, informed, and connected to each other. One idea we’ve had is to switch over to telling stories via audio, including doing more podcasts. We’d welcome any ideas which you might have. Please do let us know what you’d like to see from us!

We are deeply committed to bringing you important stories in accessible formats, and will continue to do so as much as possible. We currently have a pipeline of stories until the end of April. Once this pandemic eases, you can expect our usual stream of long-form features, with deeply informed local perspectives, bringing depth and insight into the important issues that we collectively face.

As a member-based movement that is deeply connected to its audience, New Naratif considers your voice vitally important. We welcome your feedback – feel free to reach out us at We will continue to have online events and hope to see you there.

In the meantime, stay safe and thank you for your continuing support!

PJ Thum
Managing Director
New Naratif

Thum Ping Tjin

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

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New Naratif is a movement for democracy, freedom of information, and freedom of speech in Southeast Asia (see our manifesto). Our articles report on issues that are often overlooked or suppressed by the mainstream media in Southeast Asia. We are rely on our members for their support. Every cent of your membership fee goes to supporting our research, journalism, and community organisation activities. Your support enables us to be editorially independent and to conduct hard hitting independent research and journalism. It allows us to give a voice to the powerless and to hold the powerful accountable. Our members are active participants in our movement, helping us to create content and informing us about important issues, which shapes our coverage and content. Join our movement and let us, together, build a better Southeast Asia. Please subscribe to New Naratif—it’s just US$52/year (US$1/week) or US$5/month—and it only takes a minute. If you’d like to learn more, and read more articles, please start here! Thank you!