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The Role of Democratic Media in Malaysia and Singapore

Friday 20 March 2015, 1400 – 1600, Auditorium 2

Nur Aziz
Collective Impact Initiative

Nur Aziz
Collective Impact Initiative

What is the role of the media in a democratic nation? Now with the growth of electronic and online media that runs across political and national boundaries, has there been a shift in this role? What are the unique elements of the democratic landscape in Malaysia and Singapore that bolster or impede this role? How powerful is mass media in maintaining democratic sovereignty for the people of these nations? This roundtable seeks to explore the nuanced role of media in Malaysia and Singapore in promoting democratic ideals as well as its potential contribution to increased civic and political participation.


  •  Steven Gan (Malaysiakini)

Steven Gan is co-founder of Malaysiakini (Malaysia Now). Since it went live in 1999, Malaysiakini has become one of the most influential news websites in the country.

Malaysiakini received the Free Media Pioneer 2001 award from Vienna-based International Press Institute, and Gan is recipient of New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award 2000.

The website was ranked 18 on Asiaweek’s Power 50 in 2001, and Gan was also selected as one of 50 most influential individuals in Business Week’s ‘Stars of Asia’.

Gan is co-editor of Asian Cyberactivism (2004). Malaysiakini won the bronze prize (top media brand) at the Putra Brand Awards twice – in 2010 and 2014.

  • Noelle Lim (BFM)

Noelle Lim is a radio presenter and the first employee of BFM 89.9, the business station in Kuala Lumpur. She started the programme Current Affairs on BFM to discuss national issues. Currently based in Singapore, she hosts her own weekly show, Asia On The Move, featuring entrepreneurs and changemakers in the region. She is also the Programme Director of BFM Business School, and writes for Forbes Asia. She had worked for OSK Investment Bank, the Securities Commission, and Arthur Andersen & Co, and has written for The Edge Malaysia. She graduated from the University of Hull, UK, and is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW). She is the recipient of an Eisenhower Fellowship (Multi Nation Program) in the US this year for Malaysia, and will be pursuing her interest in high school innovation to improve outcomes for low income students.

  • Sudhir Vadaketh (Journalist and writer)

Sudhir is a author of Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore (2012), a socio-economic narrative on the two countries, and co-editor of Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus (2014)Sudhir’s literary and research interests are about the way grand political and socio-economic systems influence ordinary people’s lives, their worldviews, and their interactions with each other. He is currently working on a book about China and India.

Sudhir has a BA (Geography), BA (South and South-east Asian studies) and a BSc (Business Administration) from the University of California at Berkeley; and a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. From 2006-13 Sudhir worked for The Economist Group in Singapore as associate director of the Economist Corporate Network, and later as senior editor of Economist Insights.

  • Howard Lee (The Online Citizen)

Howard Lee is a communications professional who spent over a decade in government agencies dealing with the media, before becoming joining Singapore’s independent social-political news website, The Online Citizen. As the commentaries editor, his key speciality is analysing Singapore politics and current affairs. He also served as key media liaison for the FreeMyInternet movement, Singapore’s first campaign by the online community against amendments to the Broadcast Act, which many saw as an attempt to control online media outlets. He is concurrently exploring further studies in media research.