About

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.
We do this by
  • identifying, and conducting research on, important issues facing the people of Southeast Asia;
  • advocating for and modelling ethical, moral, and progressive values rooted in the Southeast Asian context.

Manifesto

1

New Naratif explains, educates, and empowers.

Southeast Asia is complicated, heterogeneous, and multifaceted. It is divided along numerous political, class, religious, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic lines. At the same time, authoritarian governments are intolerant of alternative perspectives. Establishment interests openly and proudly seek to keep citizens ignorant, apathetic, and confused. The media is largely heavily controlled and censored. This keeps citizens in a state which allows governments to not only impose authoritarian and anti-democratic practices, but to justify such policies by citing citizens’ ignorance and apathy.
2

New Naratif challenges oversimplification and stereotyping

The news tends to be dominated by soundbites, stereotypes, and clichés. The English-language media is also often Western-centric, resulting in coverage of Southeast Asia that relies on easy tropes pandering to the interests and assumptions of Western audiences. New Naratif challenges this oversimplification of ideas and perceptions, placing less emphasis on what is trending and more on what is truly relevant.
3

New Naratif is openly subjective

New Naratif requires our correspondents to be engaged in the world they’re reporting on. Often, attempts at objectivity result in a reporting model which provides false equivalence between two opposing sources. Our correspondents strive to be fair, accurate, and independent, but also explicit about the values and assumptions underlying what they write, and candid about their particular perspective on any given issue. They will evaluate, to the best of their ability, which side of a story is most credible, and exercise transparency regarding their judgments. Correspondents view the world from their own personal perspective and through the window of their particular interests. As an organisation, we have no common political ideology; as individuals, we look at the world through moral frameworks. New Naratif does not have an opinion, beyond our stated values of democracy, human rights, and social justice, but each correspondent certainly does.
4

New Naratif stands for hope and solutions

News tends to make people feel cynical and powerless: “So much is wrong with the world, and I can’t do a thing about it.” New Naratif aims to counteract that effect with constructive journalism. This is a kind of journalism that not only brings problems and atrocities to our attention, but also proposes solutions—and ways to be part of those solutions. Constructive journalism is not the same as “good news.” It is journalism that strives both to hold up a mirror to our society and uses informed and research-based knowledge to get society moving. We encourage initiatives specifically meant to bring about positive societal change, and we hope to inspire people to believe in their society and work collaboratively for the greater good.
5

New Naratif actively involves our members in the journalistic process

New Naratif does not simply broadcast information. We do not see journalism as a one-way street, but rather as a dialogue between journalists and members, particularly those with professional or personal expertise on a given topic. The point of that dialogue is to share knowledge and experience regarding key developments of our times. To this end, correspondents share their ideas for stories and invite feedback, keep members apprised of their research with newsletters and notifications, and avail themselves of members’ expertise and experience to better their journalistic work.
6

New Naratif is free of ads

New Naratif is an ad-free platform. Disseminating messages (commercial or otherwise) for a fee is not permitted. We do not accept paid stories. Our business model is creating quality journalism for readers, not selling our readers to advertisers. New Naratif is, however, open to collaborating with partners who share our principles and contribute directly to our goals. Any such partnerships are subject to one non-negotiable condition: full academic freedom and editorial independence.
7

New Naratif thinks in terms of individuals, not target groups

New Naratif aims to build a community of curious, engaged individuals who wish to understand the world and make it a better place. We do not aim to reach a specific group of people, particular demographic category, or particular political alignment. Anyone who subscribes to our journalistic principles and our vision, or who identifies with a given author and their worldview, is welcome to join.
8

New Naratif is committed to an enduring relationship with our members

New Naratif simply would not exist without our members, and maintaining a sustainable relationship with them is our highest priority. New Naratif does not try to lure new members with benefits that existing members do not get. For the sake of editorial independence, members have no say over journalistic content, but they can provide input regarding both the course set by New Naratif and how we spend our resources. We continually take stock of member preferences, and we consult them when making major decisions about the platform.
9

New Naratif does not make profits

New Naratif is published by Observatory Southeast Asia, a private company limited by guarantee. It cannot be bought or sold. It is non-profit enterprise. All revenues are reinvested in our work. This keeps New Naratif from becoming hostage to short-term profit motives. Returns are dedicated to our mission—not the other way around. Equally, it is an important principle that all content generators be paid for their content. A major flaw of the modern freelance economy is the lack of rights and protection of freelancers. New Naratif will not exploit freelancers. It will not solicit unpaid work for “exposure”. It will pay freelancers on time and in full.
10

New Naratif strives for maximum diversity

Journalism editorial boards and research centres tend to be dominated by elites, and are culturally more one-sided than society as a whole. In order to change that, New Naratif has a diversity policy. Our goal is to become, as a journalistic platform, as diverse as possible, with many voices. We prefer to hire people who make our organisation more diverse in terms of cultural heritage, ethnicity, skin colour, academic degree, sexual preference, and political orientation. Our conviction is that our organisation will never be diverse enough. Diversity is not a target to reach; it is a continual endeavour.
11

New Naratif believes in the privacy of our members

A common denominator for nearly all free services on the internet is that users pay for them by turning over their personal data. At New Naratif, our privacy policy prohibits us from collecting unnecessary personal information from our members. With respect to the data we do ask of our members, we apply the following criteria: 1) We collect only the data we are required by law to collect, or that is necessary for our platform to function correctly; 2) We do not sell this information to third parties; 3) Our reasons for collecting data must be explained clearly to our members; and 4) Wherever possible, members must have control over their own data.
12

New Naratif is ambitious in its ideals, yet modest in its claims

New Naratif seeks to promote democracy, freedom of information, and freedom of the media. We believe in human rights, social justice, and individual human dignity. We seek great change, but we cannot do this alone. New Naratif is open to collaboration with governments, corporations, universities, the mainstream media, or any other actors who share our goals. We are mindful of our limitations and act with humility in the Southeast Asian spirit of collegiality and constructive engagement.

Transparency

New Naratif is committed to transparency and accountability. To this end, we publish our full financial accounts and issue a transparency report every six months. We also hold open meetings every month to allow all members, and anyone interested, to ask our senior management any questions that they want.

We do this not just because we are committed to these values, but because we want to set a good example. If a tiny startup with next to no resources can be transparent and accountable, why can’t governments and sovereign wealth funds?

The team

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. Her work can be found at http://charisloke.com. 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 Coordinator. Reach her at deborah.augustin@newnaratif.com.

Ellena Ekarahendy

Ellena is a visual communication designer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her creative works are combinations of design-thinking and economic, sociopolitical, and cultural discourses. Her works can be found at https://ellenae.work. As New Naratif’s Art and Design Manager, you can reach her at ellena.ekarahendy@newnaratif.com.

Erik Nadir

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.

Jacob Goldberg

Jacob Goldberg is a journalist based in Thailand. He is New Naratif's Editor-in-Chief. Reach him at jacob.goldberg@newnaratif.com.

Kelly Anissa

Kelly Anissa is a journalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is New Naratif’s Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia 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

Matt Surrusco is New Naratif's deputy editor. Based in Phnom Penh since 2016, he's also an editor at VOD, freelance reporter and journalism lecturer. Reach him at matt.surrusco@newnaratif.com.

Chua Minxi

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 Coordinator. Reach her at minxi.chua@newnaratif.com.

Sonny Liew

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

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.

Yi Peng Yap

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.