A logo of New Naratif

Democratising democracy in Southeast Asia.

Hello! 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 democratising democracy in Southeast Asia. Our vision is to foster an inclusive Southeast Asia community where all peoples are fully engaging and participating in building democracy. We aim to achieve this by empowering Southeast Asians with the knowledge and skills needed to collectively create a more democratic Southeast Asia

We are registered in Oxford, UK, and based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Amita Sevelleraja for Envisioning Media Freedom and Independence

What we do

A common refrain heard across Southeast Asia is the idea that ordinary citizens cannot make a difference. New Naratif was founded in 2017 as a response to the question: “What can I do?”. 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, swayed elections, partnered with a range of local civil society organisations, and grown into a 1,300 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

Positive change needs to be driven by the people of Southeast Asia working together. We build capacity for this through our three-step process:


Building a community of like-minded Southeast Asians to engage in collective action for positive change


Providing Southeast Asians with information, in accessible formats and languages, about important issues that we collectively face


Empowering Southeast Asians to create change through our democracy classrooms and other activities.

In this way, we help Southeast Asians collectively build a better Southeast Asia. For more information on our goals and beliefs, 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  


Xiao Ming Tang on NN Explains: Rights and What You Ought to Have

A movement is only as strong as its members. We engage and connect people who want to make Southeast Asia a better place to live. At New Naratif, members can come together to discuss the most important issues facing our communities in a safe, respectful space and practice radical imagination to act collectively for positive change. 

Our members have a direct line to our team via the weekly members-only newsletter. We also host regular online events with members, such as trivia night, documentary screenings and open meetings. If you believe in a more democratic Southeast Asia, join New Naratif as a member today!


Nibras Ali for Envisioning Media Freedom and Independence

New Naratif provides Southeast Asians with information about important issues that we collectively face in accessible formats, such as comics, explainers and podcast episodes. Our stories are translated when possible into multiple languages. 

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; and publishing news and research on our region in accessible formats, including multiple languages.

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

Amin Landak | Gica Tam | Hannah Hoang

Translating academic research into accessible formats and languages

Reporting on an issue from different perspectives across the region, that allow us to tell a more complete story

Stories which explore perspectives that no one else will explore and publish

Ina Putri Bestari on One Day Out

Stories which highlight the diversity of Southeast Asia, in the voices of Southeast Asians

Maya Schmidt on NN Explains: What Is Democracy?

Explainers which illuminate complicated, contested issues to our audience

  1. What is Politics? (and why we can’t get away from it)
  2. Political Power, Authority, and Force
  3. Why Is the Protection of Minorities Important?
  4. Toleration, or Living with Disagreement & Difference
  5. What is Democracy?
  6. Partisanship

“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


Tintin Pantoja for Artists Respond: The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

We hold events to empower the people of Southeast Asia by equipping them with all the tools needed to make positive change in their communities and become fully engaged, participatory citizens. Some examples of civic participation activities include: 

  • Democracy classrooms, where we discuss complicated issues in a respectful and constructive environment. 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)!
  • Sekolah Democracy is a series of structured democracy classrooms with a syllabus where participants will learn about the basic principles of democracy. Our inaugural Sekolah Democracy focused on democracy principles in the Malaysian context.
  • The Citizens’ Agenda is an initiative to survey our community and ask what issues are the most important to you. 
  • Journalism workshops, to increase capacity for independent journalism across Southeast Asia.
  • Here’s a list of recent events, including trivia nights, film screenings, workshops, and panels.
  • 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.
Managing Director P.J. Thum, at the launch of the Citizens’ Agenda, 6 August 2019.

Build solidarity with other Southeast Asians by participating in our upcoming events!


We’ve been recognised for our work, including:


SOPA Awards

Excellence in Excellence in Opinion Writing

Shanmugam’s Stealth Coup in Singapore by Thum Ping Tjin

SOPA Awards

Excellence in Feature Writing, Regional, Finalist: Her Name Is Untac

Her Name Is Untac: UN Peacekeepers’ Forgotten Children in Cambodia by Marta Kasztelan by Marta Kasztelan

Amnesty International Thailand Human Rights Media Awards 2021 

Outstanding online news or feature story 

What Happened to Wanchalearm? by Jacob Goldberg, Danielle Keeton-Olsen, Anna Lawattanatrakul, Matt Surrusco and Yiamyut Sutthichaya (in collaboration between New Naratif, Prachatai and VOD)


WAN-IFRA Digital Media Awards – Asia 

Best Audience Engagement (Small/Medium Publication) 

The Citizens Agenda by New Naratif

SOPA Awards

Excellence in Feature Writing, Regional, Honorable Mention: Medical Waste Collectors 

Medical Waste Collectors: Cambodia’s Unseen Front-Line Workers by Gerard Flynn (in collaboration with VOD)


Global Media Competition on Labour Migration

Professional Prize in the “Published Media Piece” Category

The Essex Lorry Tragedy and the Narrative of Migration by Lam Le 

PRISM Awards for Excellence in LGBTQ+ Comics

Short Form – Winner

One Day Out by Ina Putri Bestari 

Our Financial Model

New Naratif aims to be 100% membership funded. However, only ~10% of our operational costs are funded by members. As such, we rely on grants and donations to keep us running. We are ad-free and do not accept paid content to maintain our organisational independence. If you support our work, please consider becoming a member.

“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

Advocacy and Best Practice

We publish transparency reports, including full financial reports, every six months, at newnaratif.com/transparency. We do our best to account for every cent that we take in and spend.

We also hold open online meetings every 6 months, 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 at 8 PM SGT (11 AM GMT).

We strongly believe in privacy—see our privacy policy. We really only need three pieces of information: your name (which can be a fake name), your email (which can be a throwaway email), and your country (for tax purposes). We explain clearly in our policy the principles on which the policy is governed, what data we collect, why we collect it, and how we use it. We endeavour to keep as little data as possible and only the data that is absolutely necessary for our movement to function properly. If we don’t have your information, it can’t be stolen, misused, or monetised.

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

For more information about our work, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Join our mailing list to receive updates—newsletters go out every Tuesday. If you’d like to write, draw, or record a video or podcast for us, please pitch us your idea.

If you’d like to be a part of our movement for democracy in Southeast Asia, please join New Naratif today or make a donation!