Robert Ryman triptych, Centre Pompidou, Paris, May 2022.

Me

I am a professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Communication and Film, writing on media and politics. You can contact me via the form at the bottom of my bio page.

Interests

My research and writing focus on:

Hate propaganda and disinformation: How intolerance and hate are used in political contention, threatening freedom and equality around the world.

Media freedom and censorship: How journalism around the world struggles to serve the public interest in the face of external and internal threats.

Singapore media and politics: The governing party’s authoritarian resilience and hegemonic control of political expression.

Out now

Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship was a finalist in the Media & Cultural Studies and Graphic Nonfiction categories of the Association of American Publishers PROSE Awards honoring scholarly works published in 2021.

Published by the MIT Press, it is a global study of 21st century censorship as experienced by political cartoonists around the world. It is rendered entirely in graphic form, in collaboration with comic book artist Sonny Liew. Urban Comics will publish the French edition. Visit our website.

The power and precarity of the pencil: Taking as a point of departure the New York Times‘s extraordinary decision to stop running editorial cartoons entirely, my chapter examining the economic and professional precarity of political cartooning appears in the new volume Newswork in Precarity, edited by Kalyani Chadha and Linda Steiner.

My article co-authored with Yuan Zeng, “The Ghosts of Newspapers Past: Public Interest Journalism as Movement” has been published in the International Journal of Communication. Our study of journalism in China, Taiwan and Indonesia suggestst that the ethos of public interest journalism can be kept alive even when news organisations die and the environment turns inhospitable. Committed journalists find ways to sustain that ethos by acting like a social movement.

Together with political scientists Chong Ja Ian and Walid Jumblatt Abdullah, I probe the tendency among some Singaporeans to treat the crisis in Ukraine as an occasion to assert their values and allegiances in an identity war between the West and the Rest. Our article “Ukraine and big power rivalry: Why the urge to ‘compare rottenness’ will lead Singapore nowhere” was published in AcademiaSG.

A primer inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Current projects

Media and Majoritarianism: This new project extends my “hate spin” research. It will examine how progressive media, human rights defenders, national equality commissions, and other actors are trying to promote principles of equality and pluralism to push back against the majoritarian intolerance that accompanies exclusionary forms of populism and nationalism.

Academic freedom in Singapore: I co-authored a report based on a groundbreaking survey of academics in Singapore universities. You can download the full report here. Am working on a chapter on the same subject for a volume on academic freedom in Asia, to be published by the Associaition of Asian Studies’ Asia Shorts book series.

Hong Kong media freedom after the crackdown: I have a chapter in a volume on the National Security Law edited by Fu Hualing and Michael Khor, to be published by HKU Press in 2022. They also organised a conference in June 2021 for authors to discuss their chapters. My conference presentation is here. My essay on the same topic has been published in Global Media Journal.

“As alarming as the on-going legal actions are, citizens’ access to information and ideas is more likely to be restricted by less spectacular and coercive means, including economic carrots and sticks that encourage a culture of self-censorship. Such an environment requires new mindsets and skillsets among journalists.”

My essay on “What global censorship studies tell us about Hong Kong’s media future” was published in Global Media Journal (German Edition).

Talks, Interviews

At an International Communication Association panel on the future of the field of Political Communication, I spoke about the need to globalise the field by provincialising mainstream western scholarship. – Read the text.

Hong Kong’s Ming Pao carried this profile and interview on 12 June 2022. I talked about regulating misinformation, and why the Hong Kong government should focus more on the polarised city’s trust deficit than on its truth deficit. – Read the interview (in Chinese).


This 12-minute primer on Hate Propaganda was at the invitation of the University of Toronto’s Human Stories series, a project of Girish Daswani and Mac Graham.

Closing keynote, Future of Journalism Conference, Cardiff University, 24 September 2021. “Freedom of expression on shifting ground: Confessions of a lost liberal”. — Full text available here.


At a HKU Law Faculty conference on Hong Kong’s National Security Law, I spoke about what we can learn from comparative censorship studies.

Historyogi Podcast: The history & effects of Singapore’s media regulation policies.


Recently published

“Hate propaganda has a history measurable in millennia, considerably longer than the digitally assisted misinformation that has triggered concern in recent years.” — My chapter on “Hate Propaganda” appears in The Routledge Companion to Media Disinformation and Populism edited by Howard Tumber and Silvio Waisbord.

Co-authored with Donald Low, PAP v PAP: The Party’s struggle to adapt to a changing Singapore was released in October 2020. A Chinese translation (below) has been published by Monsoon Books in Taiwan.

My book, Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited: Essays on Singapore Politics, was published by Ethos Books in February 2020. Download a chapter: “The Dogma Behind Pofma“.

• Please visit the My Publications page on this site for more.

Gallery

Ladybug, Enryakuji

Selected commentaries

World Press Freedom Day: Outnumbered and outgunned, public-interest journalism is losing to identity politics. Current media systems have no answer for toxic polarisation. A public service internet and public service media need to be on the agenda. My commentary for 360info.org.

Ukraine and big power rivalry – Why the urge to ‘compare rottenness’ will lead Singapore nowhere: Chong Ja Ian, Walid Jumblatt Abdullah and I probe the tendency among some Singaporeans to treat the crisis in Ukraine as an occasion to assert their values and allegiances in an identity war between the West and the Rest. Read our commentary.

Singapore’s media system overhaul: Singapore’s news media giant SPH will go non-profit, marking the end of the PAP government’s neoliberal approach to suppressing the press. It will use public funds instead. ⁦Read my commentary.

The future of media freedom in Hong Kong: My essay in Global Media Journal. Read.

Race and the PAP: A chapter from PAP v PAP on the what needs to change in Singapore’s management of cultural diversity.

Section 298 of Singapore’s Penal Code is a bad law that promotes offence-taking instead of tolerance; it needs to go. Read my commentary.

A call for clean online campaigning: Singapore’s online falsehoods law fails to regulate social media manipulation by the ruling party. Read this call for more transparency by a multidisciplinary team of experts.

Stay in touch

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My other sites

On hate propaganda in the world, titled after my book.
A site I manage with fellow Singaporean academics.
My blog on Singapore, titled after my book.
My blog on Singapore media, titled after my book.

On Twitter