The Globe as you know it is changing. Coming June 2019

  • More thought provoking stories that inspire
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  • Vote for, pitch and commission stories
  • Member engagement with our journalists
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To understand more about why you are so important to our member support initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Malaysia / Can Mahathir’s 100-day-old government survive its inevitable succession?

By: Nithin Coca - Posted on: September 4, 2018 | Best of 2018

Malaysia’s promise of reform is in full bloom after the ruling coalition’s shock defeat, but despite rumblings of democracy, civil rights strides remain – for now, perhaps – elusive

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a media conference on anti-corruption at his office in Putrajaya, Malaysia Photo: Ahmad Yusni / EPA-EFE

Two years ago, Malaysia’s opposition leader was in jail, the nation’s independent media was being censored or shut down and colonial-era laws were being used to jail activists. The idea of a democratic transition wasn’t even a pipe dream – yet it happened due to a perfect storm of events on 9 May when the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, beat Barisan Nasional (BN), which had ruled uninterrupted for 61 years.

“The people of Malaysia felt like it was an independence day. We regained our freedom,” Bala Chelliah, president of the NGO Global Bersih, told Southeast Asia Globe.

This does not mean everything has been solved in Malaysia. The first question that many had after the result was simple. Could Mahathir, who had himself led BN as prime minister for 22 years, from 1981 to 2003, really be a reformist? That period saw numerous assaults on civil liberties, including the use of legal tools to suppress the opposition.

So far, the answer is a surprising yes. The incoming cabinet is full of respected experts rather than political cronies. Moves are being made to repeal a controversial anti-terrorism law. Controversial trade deals with China were suspended and tabled for renegotiation. High-dollar infrastructure projects, including a high-speed rail link with Singapore, have been axed. And Mahathir is not acting like the Mahathir of old, but taking his caretaker role seriously.

Some things, though, are taking longer than many had hoped. One of the key demands of Malaysian civil society has been the removal of laws that restrict freedom of expression, some of which predate the country’s independence from the United Kingdom. They include the 1948 Sedition Act, National Security Council Act, University and Colleges Act and, in what was one of ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak’s last attempts to entrench power, the Anti-Fake News Act, passed in April.

PH ran on a platform calling for overturning all of these laws, but so far they are still under review. But in one positive development, in late July, a Malaysian court dropped nine charges of sedition against cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known for his satirical drawings of Najib. Karin Deutsch Karlekar of Pen America hopes that this is the first step towards removing these laws.

“It remains to be seen whether it is a one-off event or an ongoing commitment of a government newly dedicated to the free press,” Karlekar said in a press statement. “The Sedition Act and other laws used to suppress free expression are still on the books, so other Malaysian artists and thinkers are still vulnerable.”

The people of Malaysia felt like it was an independence day. We regained our freedom

One reason legal reform has been ignored could be Mahathir’s focus on holding his predecessor responsible for his role in the 1MDB scandal, in which $700 million was allegedly funnelled from a government-run development fund into Najib’s bank account, and billions more went missing. Najib was restricted from leaving Malaysia days after the election, and an investigation was quickly launched. His homes were raided, and in one apartment, investigators found $28.6 million in cash. Less than two months after the election, Najib was formally charged and will face trial soon.

“Conducting a serious investigation into the 1MDB scandal, along with justice departments in other states, is important to show a signal that the era of impunity in Malaysia is ending,” said Josh Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asia expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank.

This is especially remarkable because in Southeast Asia, corrupt former officials often get away. Neighbouring Indonesia never tried former President Suharto despite evidence that he had stolen an astounding $35 billion – an amount that makes Najib’s crimes look like peanuts. He was even named the world’s most corrupt leader in modern history by the NGO Transparency International. Yet, during Indonesia reform years, around the turn of the millennium, he was never charged. That has led to the sad irony of his son, Tommy Suharto, wanting to run for president on an anti-corruption platform.

This begs bigger questions. Will what is happening in Malaysia influence the region? Southeast Asia has seen widespread democratic backsliding in the past several years, with press freedom also under increasing threat. Malaysia is swimming against this tide.

Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad shout slogans and wave flags in front of the Royal Palace in Kuala Lumpur on the day of the 2018 election Photo: Fazry Ismail / EPA-EFE

But until recently, Malaysia resembled other countries in the region: Cambodia, which saw its opposition and independent media squashed before the most recent election; Vietnam, where an entrenched party is limiting freedom of press and assembly; and Singapore, where another longtime ruling party continues to manipulate elections and suppress dissent.

It could take a while to change Malaysia after 61 years of BN rule. A turning of the tide may not happen in the next year or so during Mahathir’s caretaker role, leaving the question of what exactly a post-Mahathir coalition will look like. Pakatan Harapan is an unwieldy coalition, made up of the centre-left Democratic Action Party, the Islamist-oriented Amanah and two other smaller parties. They united in opposition to BN and remain united under Mahathir, but will they stick together after he departs?

That is why, for Malaysians, the transition from Mahathir to, as many expect, former PH leader Anwar Ibrahim, will be worth watching, but even more important could be who follows Anwar. After all, both Mahathir and Anwar are former BN leaders themselves. Malaysia might have an opposition government, but it has not yet had a leader who wasn’t connected to the BN machine.

“The people who follow after Mahathir, they will have political considerations,” Chew Chuan Yang, documentation and monitoring coordinator at the Malaysian human rights NGO Suara Rakyat Malaysia, told Southeast Asia Globe. “This system that the former regime ran has always benefitted those in power. Is that really going to change? I may start having doubts about that.”

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist covering the environment, politics and human rights in Asia.

This article was published in the September 2018 edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.