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

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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 / Activists welcome bills to abolish colonial-era laws with cautious optimism

By: Amy Dodds - Posted on: October 17, 2018 | Current Affairs

Bills to abolish the death penalty and the Sedition Act, two of Malaysia’s archaic colonial-era laws, are expected to be tabled at the current sitting of parliament, which commenced this week in Kuala Lumpur. Human rights activists have welcomed the move but remain wary of sudden political u-turns

Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar to Malaysians, is a political cartoonist. He currently faces up to 43 years in prison for criticising the Malaysian government Illustration: Zunar

Pakatan Harapan’s (PH’s) historic election win earlier this year shook up the country’s politics and saw the miraculous fall of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which had ruled over the country with an iron fist for 61 years. And in the months since that dramatic turnaround, changes have started to materialise.

On the World Day Against the Death Penalty, 10 October, newly minted Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Legal Affairs Liew Vui Keong stated, “all death penalty will be abolished. Full stop. As it stands today, the decision is to abolish the death penalty.”

This was soon followed by the news that the parliament would also review the Sedition Act, a law that in the past critics have claimed has been used to stifle free speech and government opposition. While activists have expressed delight at this news, questions about how this will be carried out remain.

What will happen to the prisoners on death row

 Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto_Malaysia_EPA-EFE_Southeast-Asia-Globe-2018
Australian Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto (C), was sentenced to death by hanging on drug smuggling charges earlier this year Photo: Fazry Ismail / EPA-EFE

More than 1,200 people are currently on death row in Malaysia. Lawyers For Liberty Executive Director Latheefa Koya said that an abolition would be a welcome reprieve for inmates and their family members.  

“Those on death row will have a chance to be spared from the noose. We have over 1000 who have been waiting for years and years, not knowing when their time will be up. It’s one of the cruelest and most traumatic punishments that anybody is put through,” she said.  

The abolition means that, in effect, all death sentences pronounced from offences including murder, possession of firearms and trafficking in drugs, to name a few, will be commuted to life imprisonment.

Aptly, plights surrounding the death penalty were captured in a documentary which premiered earlier this month at FreedomFilmFest, a human rights film festival in Malaysia. Menunggu Masa (Waiting For Time) follows the complex case of Mainthan a/l Arumugam who has spent 14 years on death row for a murder he claims he did not commit. The case has been heard 19 times and despite new evidence in the case, Mainthan remains on death row.

Lawyer and filmmaker Sharizad Razak said the announcement of the abolition of the death penalty was welcome and timely considering the recent screening of the film in Malaysia, but said that there is still work to be done:

“Although there is a moratorium on executions until the passing of the new changes in the law, we are still working on getting the support from the public and members of parliament for Mainthan’s pardon petition to the Pardon’s Board.”

She added, “we have spoken to a representative of Mainthan’s family. It is a relief for them to know that there is a moratorium on the executions of those who are on death row, but they are still hoping that Mainthan can be released and come home to his family after 14 years away.”

Political flip-flopping

Long time activists and former detainees and survivors of the old regime have expressed cautious optimism amidst the lingering euphoria following the recent change of government as a result of the 14th general election. Despite having voted in the opposition-turned-government of the day, they have learned to be humble and reserved.

Kua Kia Soong, a prominent human rights defender, ex-political detainee and founder of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia’s leading human rights organisation, is not getting too carried away.

“I welcome [the abolition] because I have been campaigning against the death penalty since the early eighties. So has SUARAM, ever since it was formed in 1989. This new PH government has been flip-flopping over several policies and I [wouldn’t] be surprised if they do over this one if there are criticisms of the policy. PH has these policies in their GE14 manifesto and they have been criticised by many for reneging on the promises,” Kua said.

His views are echoed by Charles Hector, a coordinator for the social justice movement Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) which has campaigned against the death penalty for years.

“We are very happy about the announcement of the cabinet decision to abolish the death penalty. Our hope is that this NEW Pakatan Harapan will not backtrack on its position, or procrastinate in bringing about abolition. We hope the bills will be passed in this session of parliament and [the] death penalty in Malaysia will be abolished by the end of 2018.”

He added that MADPET’s work will continue even if the death penalty in Malaysia is abolished, as the organisation will seek fair trial, the administration of justice and the elimination of torture.

“We are also concerned about Malaysians facing the death penalty in other jurisdictions and [will] strive for the abolition of the death penalty in ASEAN member countries, in Asia-Pacific and the world,” he said.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced at the UN General Assembly that the new government pledges to ratify all remaining core UN instruments related to the protection of human rights. Photo: Ahmad Yusni / EPA-EFE

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) is among a list of core international instruments that are yet to be ratified by Malaysia. In September 2018, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced during a speech at the UN General Assembly that the new government pledges to ratify all remaining core UN instruments related to the protection of human rights.

Human rights activist Fadiah Nadwa Fikri also welcomed this move and urged the government to follow through:

“It is important to emphasise that the government also has an obligation to abolish other cruel, degrading and inhumane punishments such as whipping, if its truly committed to upholding human rights,” she said.  

The Sedition Act

While the abolition of death penalty appears almost settled, a different set of challenges surround another archaic law – the Sedition Act 1948. Malaysia inherited the act from the time of British colonisation and up until recently was still using the legislation to investigate government critics.

Rehashing the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto, Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo announced last week that the cabinet had decided to suspend the use of the Sedition Act as they prepared a bill to repeal it altogether.

Post-general election, under the new government, rights activist Fadiah was herself investigated under the Sedition Act for an article she authored for the blog Malaysia Muda which allegedly questioned the monarchy in Malaysia, evoking similarities to Thailand’s controversial lèse majesté law.

She was also investigated under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 in recent months, both laws criticised by rights groups as limiting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and which the PH government had pledged to review in their election manifesto.

Fadiah attributes last week’s announcements to the hard work and dedication of the Malaysian public:

“The people who acted on their consciousness played an important role in demanding the abolition of the death penalty and the moratorium of the Sedition Act after Pakatan Harapan came into power. These people were reclaiming the democratic space that was promised by the Pakatan Harapan government and their right to participate in setting the direction of politics of this country”, she said.

The Sedition Act has come under fierce criticism from local and international human rights groups for years. They believe the law conflicts with the Malaysian constitution, which provides for the right to freedom of expression. The previous BN government regularly invoked the law against its critics, and indeed, many former current government officials were themselves victims of the act, a fact pointed out by SUARAM founder Kua.

Whilst the motion and intention of elected lawmakers are set, Malaysians are awaiting the outcome with mixed reactions. The views on the death penalty and the need for the Sedition Act remain polarised in Malaysia and the parliament now finds itself in a position where it must provide certainty and consistency over the matter.

The current parliamentary sitting will continue in Kuala Lumpur until 11 December 2018.