The Globe as you know it is changing.
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To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported 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.

Region’s harsh drug policies slammed by experts

By: Daniel Besant - Posted on: May 5, 2016 | Featured

Following a UN conference on drugs last month, countries in the region are being accused of sticking with ineffective and harmful anti-drug policies

Last month in New York, governments and civil society attended the UN’s General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) to discuss the global drug problem. There were high hopes, particularly as Latin American countries most affected by the so-called “War on Drugs” had strongly pushed for the session, that there could be a revolution in drug policy. What resulted was, at best, a small evolution in thinking.

drug policies
Customs security personnel guard an alleged drug smuggler in Banda Aceh , Indonesia, on 24 August 2015. Photo: EPA/Hotli Simanjuntak

It may lead to more flexibility from the UN on drug treaties, increased acceptance that harsh drug laws are not working and a change in the language used around drug users. But for Southeast Asian governments, and in particular Asean as a whole, it seems a revolution is still some way off.

“The UNGASS event itself clearly marked a shift in thinking and a widening gap between reform-minded countries and those that want to retain the status quo,” said Tom Blickman, programme coordinator for policy group Transnational Institute. “Unfortunately, most Southeast Asian countries and China belong to latter category and Asean is still committed to the unrealistic goal of a drug-free society.”

The background to this goal is the region’s long and troubled history with narcotics. As a January 2015 article on The Interpreter, the website for the Lowy Institute for International Policy, explained: “Drug gangs and their huge profits threaten internal security and development. Drug-related diseases such as HIV devastate populations and drug-fuelled violence terrorises communities across Southeast Asia.”

Many countries in the Asean bloc individually recognise that the drug-free goal is not a realistic objective. However, “they stick to it as rather a symbolic way to steer drug-control efforts,” said Olivier Lermet, regional advisor on HIV at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Southeast Asia and the Pacific office.

“The fact that it still represents the official regional doctrine is problematic from a public health and human rights point of view,” Lermet added. “We advise countries and organisations… that a comprehensive approach to drug use that includes prevention, treatment and access to health services and medicines works best.”

Singapore’s minister for home affairs and minister for law, Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, stands firm though. His message to the UN summit was that harm reduction programmes were tantamount to the legalisation of drugs and could not be tolerated.

“When you go down the route of harm reduction, I don’t think we should be under any illusion – drugs harm the abuser, his family, and the community. Period,” Shanmugam said.

But according to Gloria Lai, senior policy officer for the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), harm reduction is about minimising the risks relating to drug use, including overdose, illnesses and infections. “It is a pragmatic acknowledgment that there will always be people who use drugs and that the ultimate objective of drug control policies should be to save lives,” she said.

Countries in the region seem “unable to confront the realities of steadily growing drug markets and to contemplate a rational approach to drugs that would cause less harm to individuals and societies”, Lai added.

The IDPC notes that, in the region, “the prevalence of harsh, disproportionate penalties for drugs offences… are accompanied by severe and blatant violations of human rights justified through national legal systems”.  The strongest legal sanction used is the death penalty. Currently, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam regularly execute drug offenders, and Indonesia has recently resumed executions.

At the UN conference, the Philippines was the only country in the region that actively opposed the death penalty, although countries including Cambodia, Myanmar and Timor-Leste also do not impose the death penalty for drugs offences. Indonesia delivered a statement in defence of retaining it, on behalf of a coalition of countries including China, Singapore and Malaysia, among others.

Despite being proud of her country’s stance on the death penalty, Ma. Inez Feria, founding director of the Philippine NGO NoBox Transitions, was worried that this may change if current presidential election frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte reaches the top spot.

“[Duterte] is a man who has been linked to extrajudicial killings particularly of people associated with drugs, who makes no qualms about speaking of killing to address drugs and crime, among many other seriously worrisome things,” Inez Feria said.   

For now, Indonesia is the country fixed most firmly in the spotlight for its use of the death penalty. Last year, the country executed 14 death row prisoners. During the UN summit, Indonesian lawyer Ricky Gunawan, director of the Community Legal Aid Institute, gave an impassioned speech decrying his country’s use of the sanction, drawn from his meetings with two of those executed.

Speaking to Southeast Asia Globe last week, Gunawan was clear that he believes Indonesia’s current drug policies just do not work – calling the Indonesian government “blinded by a desire to continue to use punitive measures” – and recommending the upscaling of existing harm-reduction programmes as the way forward.

“The [Indonesian government’s] intended objective is to restrict drug use and eradicate drug trafficking,” he said. “But what is happening now is completely the opposite. Drug use is increasing, drug trafficking is increasing.”