Reporting In! 1 October 2020 – 31 March 2021

New Naratif is the trading name of and is published by Observatory Southeast Asia Limited, whose objectives are:

  • Build a broader understanding and more diverse, complex view of the Southeast Asian region that helps contribute to solutions for important issues facing the people of the Southeast Asian region.
  • Innovate on research, news, and culture publication in the Southeast Asian region, in content, form, and channel, and offer an outlet for talented Southeast Asian researchers, journalists, and artists.
  • Promote the universal values of democracy, freedom of the media, and freedom of inquiry, information, and expression.

In its third year of existence, New Naratif continues to receive accolades in Southeast Asia and globally for our stories on the region. Despite numerous political and financial challenges, our membership is growing and we have a steady pipeline of stories which reflect growing impact on the political discourse in Southeast Asia.

  1. Contents

A total of 73 pieces of content were published.:


Of the 40 articles published in this time period,

Bahasa Indonesia3
Bahasa Malaysia2

Most viewed contents*:

JournalismUnique Pageviews
How Singaporeans Can Help the People of Myanmar1,988
Myanmar Activist: We Want Our Own Script1,827
“I Lost My Education”: Refugees in Malaysia Face Widening School Gap1,443
ResearchUnique Pageviews
How Much Should Hawker Food Cost in Singapore?9,097
The False Scarcity in Singapore’s Meritocracy7,347
Explainer: Discrimination in Singapore1,911
ComicsUnique Pageviews
Artists Respond: Hindsight Is 20201,338
Artists Respond: Myanmar Fights for Democracy679
PodcastsUnique Pageviews
Why Wares Mutual Aid?464
Political Agenda — Are Singapore’s Hawker Centres Dying Out?427
Charles Yeo, the Chairman of the Reform Party290

*Only includes articles published after 1 October 2020. 

  1. Our Members
MonthCurrent MembersMembers GainedMembers Lost
October 2020N/A*22120
November 2020N/A*25126
December 2020N/A*N/A*N/A*
January 2021129814N/A*
February 2021130824N/A*
March 202113173021

*For months marked “N/A” above, we were not able to retrieve accurate data from the website backend. Thus, we have chosen to exclude the data from the chart. 

For some time now, we have had problems with the website, in terms of reliability and also in terms of gathering accurate data. To address this, we will be shifting to a new webhost designed specifically for news organisations: Newspack. This should largely address the problems of reliability and data, in exchange for reduced flexibility and less customisability of the site.

The majority of new members who signed up during this period of time came from:

  1. Singapore: 39 members
  2. Malaysia: 30 members
  3. United States: 12 members
  1. Staffing

In January 2021, we welcomed a new Editor-in-Chief, Jacob Goldberg and in February, Operations Administrator Sarah Hana. As of 31 March 2021, we have 11 team members:

  • Pingtjin Thum, Managing Director
  • Jacob Goldberg, Editor in Chief
  • Matt Surrusco, Deputy Editor
  • Kelly Anissa, Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia Editor and Podcast Editor
  • Charis Loke, Comics and Illustrations Editor
  • Deborah Augustin, Membership Engagement Manager and Malaysia Director
  • Minxi Chua, Operations Manager
  • Erik Nadir, Marketing and Outreach Manager
  • Ellena Ekarahendy, Art and Design Manager
  • Yi Peng Yap, Social Media Manager
  • Sarah Hana, Operations Administrator

For the next quarter, New Naratif plans on establishing a new Advocacy Department which includes a Research Editor, an Advocacy Manager, and a Freelancer Community Organiser.

  1. Finances

In this period, New Naratif obtained two grants: US$100,000 from the National Endowment for Democracy, for a research on capacity-building on media freedom in Southeast Asia; and US$7,335 from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting for reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on minority communities in Malaysia and Cambodia. We also launched our fundraising campaign with a goal of raising up to US$226,366.

A financial report for Oct 2020 to March 2021 can be found below or downloaded here (PDF).

  1. Challenges

Social and Political

In this period, New Naratif continued to face significant political challenges. On 18 September 2020, the Assistant Returning Officer filed a police report against New Naratif. In a press statement explaining this, the Elections Department, which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore, alleged that New Naratif published “paid advertisements that amounted to the illegal conduct of election activity under s83(2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) during the recent 2020 General Election”. This was a politically motivated attack on New Naratif by the Prime Minister’s Office. Our Managing Director, Dr Thum Ping Tjin, was questioned for four hours by the Singapore police, his home raided and his mobile phone and laptop confiscated. 

On 5 March 2021, Dr Thum was again summoned to Clementi Police Station in Singapore for a second round of interrogation, where he was interrogated for a further 3 hours. His belongings have not yet been returned to him. It is clear the Singapore government continue to target New Naratif. We anticipate that they will continue to harass Dr Thum and we also anticipate the introduction of a new law – anticipated since 2019 – targeting New Naratif’s operations under the guise of countering “foreign interference”.

An Emergency was declared in Malaysia, and as a Malaysia-based organisation we met this news with alarm. Artists, such as Fahmi Reza, were targeted by the regime. We are preparing accordingly for action against our team members in Malaysia, particularly those in Kuala Lumpur.

Authoritarianism is on the rise around the region, including the coup in Myanmar. This creates new threats to New Naratif but we will continue to try to hold those with power accountable.


COVID-19 continues to be a challenge for New Naratif. We have suspended all in-person events since March 2020. As the pandemic continues, we anticipate that disposable income will fall and our rate of membership growth will also accordingly fall. We will have to shift, in the short term, to raising funding through grants and donations.

  1. Looking Forward

Over the next 12 months, New Naratif has three main aims:

  • Raise sufficient funds through donations and grants to survive another year.
  • Improve the ability of our members to create positive change in Southeast Asia.
  • We will be transitioning to a new website host – NewsPack – and will aim to do this transition, and also improve the functionality and reliability of the site, with no disruption to members.

Additional Note: We apologise for the delayed release of this report. As noted above, we ran into a lot of problems gathering data. We hope that these problems will be resolved by the next report.

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