Hong Kong’s largest video billboard, Causeway Bay, shot from the back of a tram. – January 2023.

Me

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

Main interests

Hate propaganda and polarisation: How intolerance and hate are used in political contention, threatening freedom and equality around the world. My next book looks at efforts around the world to counter polarisation.

Media freedom and censorship: How journalism around the world struggles to serve the public interest. My last book was a study of the censorship of political cartoons. A recent paper develops a theory of performative censorship.

Singapore media and politics: The governing party’s authoritarian resilience and hegemonic control of the public sphere. My recent work has focused on academic freedom.

My next book

Against Polarisation (working title) looks at how projects around the world are trying to transcend “us-them” divides through innovative media and communication processes that connect communities and construct more inclusive publics in divided societies. The book, for Polity Press, will gather lessons from co-governance institutions, peace-building journalism, public service media, university campuses, deliberative polling exercises, and blueprints for a digital public sphere.

The cartoon “Incompatible Freedoms” by Anne Derenne appears in my last book, Red Lines.

Other current projects

Hate speech regulation in Asia. I am writing a chapter on this topic for the Oxford Handbook of Hate Speech, edited by Eric Heinze, Tom Herrenberg et. al. I will show how, in the absence of strong equality protections, hate speech laws in many Asian jurisdictions end up being abused by dominant groups to sharpen oppression of vulnerable communities.

Academic freedom in Singapore. Mainly as part of the collective AcademiaSG, I have been writing and speaking about academic freedom in Singapore. These projects can be found here and here.

Press freedom in Hong Kong. I look at long-term trends in Hong Kong media freedom, in collaboration with my PhD student Cheng Yujia, and Agnes Lam of CUHK. Am also working on a chapter for the 2nd edition of The National Security Law in Hong Kong.

Promoting Chinese journalism research. Through the Centre for Media and Communication Research, I am facilitating my colleagues’ new initiative to set up a Chinese Journalism Studies Network. More information here.

Global diversity in media studies: Together with Saba Bebawi, Silvio Waisbord and Herman Wasserman, I’ve started a Global Media Studies Network, which aims to accelerate de-westernisation and de-colonisation of the field of media studies. Read the text of my talk on this subject at the International Communication Association 2022 conference, and a blog analysing the field’s top-ranked journals.

My last book

Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship was honoured as among the top three books in two categories — Media & Cultural Studies and Graphic Nonfiction — by the Association of American Publishers PROSE Awards for scholarly works published in 2021. Red Lines 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. Visit our website.

MIT Press has made these excerpts freely accessible: “An Illustrated Guide to Post-Orwellian Censorship” and the story of Jewish American cartoonist Eli Valley’s battles with pro-Zionist forces in the United States.

Other recent work on censorship:

  • Performative censorship: Why some free speech conflicts should be taken seriously but not literally, Media, Culture & Society, 2024.
  • “Cartoons”, to be published in the Encyclopedia of Political Communication, edited by A. Nai, M. Grömping & D Wirz (Edward Elgar). Accepted manuscript available at SSRN.

Teaching

At HKBU, I teach undergraduate and masters courses on journalism and society, plus a PhD course on freedom of expression and censorship. In 2023, I taught a media/politics course for Germany’s Studienstiftung summer academy. I led the Media, Culture and Society intro course for Stanford’s Department of Communication in the Fall of 2022. My PhD students work on topics in the broad area of media and politics.

Selected talks, interviews

“The tyranny of university rankings and bibliometrics”, a presentation at AcademiSG’s May 2024 Knowledge Praxis Conference.


In October 2022, I gave the closing talk at the 5th Singapore Literary Festival in New York City. This biennial event is organised by Singapore Unbound.


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).


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.


Gallery

Ladybug, Enryakuji

Selected commentaries

Singapore’s unique, troubled Presidency. Constitutional law academic Kevin Tan and I explain why Singapore’s directly elected Presidency is a flawed institution. Read the article.

Hong Kong media freedom, two years after the crackdown. My colleagues and I have tabulated incidents related to Hong Kong’s media freedom since the promulgation of the National Security Law. View the archive.

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.

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

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

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