2018 Jefferson Fellowships


Theme:  Populism, Identity, and the State of Democracy in Southeast Asia

Dates:  June 18 – July 10, 2018

Destinations:  Honolulu, HI; Singapore; Manila, Philippines; Kuala Lumpur/Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

The 2018 Jefferson Fellowships program took place June 18 –July 10, 2018 with study tour travel to Honolulu, Hawaii; Manila, Philippines; Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabula, Malaysia and included eleven journalists from eight countries. Journalists explored how domestic, regional, and global forces precipitated populism and identity-based conflict and how both are influencing democratic progress in Southeast Asia via the program theme of Populism, Identity, and the State of Democracy in Southeast Asia. The 2018 Jefferson Fellowships program began in Honolulu with U.S.-based experts discussing the spread of populism in the United States and the Asia Pacific region. Journalists also shared perspectives from their own countries on the theme through topic paper presentations. Travel to Manila explored the rise of Rodrigo Duterte, including his populist economic policies, criticism of the Philippine-U.S. relationship and the Catholic Church, and the extrajudicial drug war. Travel to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu explored the nexus between ethnic and religious identity in Malaysia, its impact on electoral politics, and the reelection of Mahathir Mohamad. Meetings with government officials, academics, students, media colleagues, civil society leaders, ethnic and religious representatives in the United States, Philippines, and Malaysia contextualized and compared populist mobilization and identity politics; offered journalists an opportunity to explore whether the experiences of the Philippines and Malaysia are part of a larger trend towards a weakening of democratic norms and institutions; provided first-hand exposure to and more nuanced understanding of the theme; and built the professional networks of participating journalists.

The 2018 Jefferson Fellowships additionally included participation in the East-West Center’s 6th International Media Conference in Singapore where journalists gathered to discuss “What is News Now.” The Conference included distinguished keynote speakers and panels of working journalists as well as unique opportunities to network with 350 international media professionals. Finally, efforts by political leaders to undermine media’s legitimacy were explored throughout the program.

The 2018 Jefferson Fellows were:

  • Ms. Simrit Kaur AMAR SINGH, Assistant Editor, Star Media Group Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Mr. Chad BLAIR, Politics and Opinion Editor, Civil Beat, Honolulu, HI, USA
  • Ms. Katie A. BRADFORD, Political Reporter, Television New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Ms. Sunetra CHOUDHURY, Political Editor, New Delhi Television, New Delhi, India     
  • Mr. John H. DIAZ, Ediotrial Page Editor, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Mr. Titthara MAY, News Editor, Khmer Times, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Mr. Kumaran M. PILLAI, Editor-in-Chief, The Independent, Singapore
  • Ms. Emily R. SCHULTHEIS, Freelancer, The Atlantic and Foreign Policy, Berlin, Germany/USA
  • Ms. Ashley WESTERMAN, Associate Producer, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Washington, DC
  • Ms. Tsoi Lai Catherine WONG, Reporter, South China Morning Post, Beijing, China
  • Mr. Karl Lester Malcampo YAP, Editor, Asia Economy, Bloomberg News, Manila, Philippines