The Beauty of Abstract Art

The Beauty of Abstract Art

Written by Fabian Subash


My name is Fabian Subash Anthonysamy. 

I am 37 years old.

I am from Kuala Lumpur.

I am a fine artist and an upcoming one. 

I graduated in Visual and Digital Arts (Fine Arts) at Limkokwing University.


I have done 10 solo exhibitions and one group exhibition at various churches, such as:

  1. St. John’s Cathedral, Kuala Lumpur (16 December 2012)
  2. Church of Good Shepherd, Setapak, Kuala Lumpur (19 May 2013)
  3. Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Jalan Peel, Kuala Lumpur (4 August 2013)
  4. Church of St. Francis Xavier, Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya (24 November 2013)
  5. St. Jude’s Church, Rawang (8 – 9 March 2014)
  6. Holy Family Church, Kajang (25 May 2014)
  7. Church of St. Anthony, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur (14 – 15 June 2014)
  8. St. Ignatius Church, Petaling Jaya (6 July 2014)
  9. Church of Visitation, Seremban (13 – 14 August 2016)
  10. Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur (16 – 17 June 2018)
  11. Group exhibition – Malaysian Fashion and Art Week 2018, White Box, Publika (19 – 25 November 2018) 

I exhibited my paintings in bazaars at various places such as Publika, e-Curve, The Curve, Amcorp Mall, Bangsar Shopping Centre and many more. I have also participated in the Christmas Bazaar for both American and British Associations of Malaysia. My paintings have been auctioned at the annual dinners of the Catholic Doctors Association of Malaysia and the Catholic Lawyers Association of Malaysia.

The purpose of my exhibitions is to promote abstract art to the public especially for the young children and young adults in Malaysia and across the globe. I know they should be exposed to this particular kind of art, henceforth becoming more creative and innovative. Abstract art is so rich in colour, shapes, lines composition, and depth. The things that you can learn from it are amazing and endless. There is no age limit to abstract art. It is so therapeutic for all ages because of the two most important elements: colour and style. These attract the audience. Abstract art is much easier to do in comparison to scenery and figurative paintings.

I want to help our youth pass their time productively rather than going out and wasting their money at clubs: drinking, mixing with the wrong company, and doing unnecessary things. This will expand their thinking and eventually will be a good habit for them to cultivate. From this, I know that they can also apply this knowledge in their daily lives – studies, work, or even sports. Nowadays, everything that we do needs us to be creative and innovative. Yes, of course theoretical information and knowledge is important, but only to a certain extent. Most importantly, it is using our common sense to reason out and perceive life by improvising, adapting and overcoming.




All images are the property of Fabian Subash.

Gold Rain and Hailstones kicks off ICT 30th anniversary

Gold Rain and Hailstones kicks off ICT 30th anniversary

The Instant Café Theatre Company turns 30 this year. To begin the year, ICT is in the process of restaging Gold Rain and Hailstones as the opening of a programme of Malaysian writers, voices and stories. Gold Rain and Hailstones by Jit Murad is a seminal work in Malaysian theatre history.

It was Jit Murad’s first play, originally staged in 1993 to huge public and critical acclaim. Jit and his plays inspired a generation of Malaysian writers in both film and theatre, and he counted such people as the late, great Yasmin Ahmad among his close friends. His plays also delighted a generation of theatre goers who loved his wit, his warmth, his ingenuity, his way with words and his very Malaysian humour.

There are a number of reasons for restaging this play now. One is because it is an important play that has particular resonance for us Malaysians today. Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri, baik lagi negeri sendiri as the old saying goes. Whether that is true or not is the subject of the play. Another reason is to introduce Jit Murad and his work to a new generation of Malaysian theatre makers. We hope this restaging of Gold Rain can inspire another burst of creativity just as it did before. Originally directed by the then ‘up and coming’ young director Zahim Albakri, it was performed by Jit Murad himself and Lin Jafaar. Now the task of directing has been given to another ‘up and coming’ theatre and film director, Gavin Yap, whose second major feature film will be released in April. This play marks his return to theatre after a period honing his craft in cinema. Ultimately, he intends to turn the play into a feature film. The play features an impressive cast of strong, young actors: Sharifah Amani, Redza Minhat, Farah Rani and Ghafir Akbar.

Why are stories like Gold Rain and Hailstones important?

Because in this new and promising era, the people of Malaysia need to have their stories told and their voices heard. Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri, baik laginegeri sendiri is the reality today.

But people want to speak, to know if they can speak without fear, to ask questions, form their own opinions, debate, make informed decisions more than before. Good theatre creates the environment for intellectual and creative liveliness. It sparks curiosity; feeds inventiveness; stimulates creative thinking and leads to creative solutions; it nourishes critical thinking and forms independently-minded people who are not easily led.

The purpose of theatre is to share stories, to provide a place where we can listen deeply to each other. Good theatre tells the diverse stories that we must hear if we are to have a better understanding of those outside our immediate communities. It generates empathy, develops kindness and cultivates generous, open-minded, tolerant individuals.

Theatre provides an outlet for the dispossessed, the disadvantaged, the voiceless and invisible, the youth from troubled backgrounds, the middle class liberal who feels under attack, the quiet conservative who feels she cannot express her opinion safely. As in the Malay tradition, good theatre can be a place of healing and emotional growth for the community, a soothing balm and an avenue to explore and come to terms with some of life’s harsh realities.

ICT has always been a ‘people’s theatre’, giving equal value to theatre and its audience. It believes in breaking through protocols and in making theatre for everyone. It hopes to make us all feel braver to say what is on our mind – singly and as a collective. There is no one opinion that is right or wrong.  It wants theatre viewers to see themselves as a diverse but homogenous lot – people seeking to express themselves or to see their experiences reflected. Through its political satire it has tried to speak Truth to Power; through its current New Malaysian Writing platforms – FIRSTWoRKS and ALMoST TRUE SToRIES –  it wants to help nurture new Malaysian writers who have written in Malay, English, Chinese and a mixture of all those languages, to tell much-needed new Malaysian stories. Through its workshops and education outreach it has sought to share knowledge; through its international collaborations, tours and workshops it has sought to bring Malaysia to the world and the world to Malaysia.

What inspired you to write Gold Rain and Hailstones? And why is the play timely for a restaging?

 I can’t recall the original ‘inspiration’, to be honest. It was a long time ago. Something about the guilt and defensiveness of my own ‘dislocation’ as ordained by my own society… and perhaps a subtler point that being ‘different’ was planted even BEFORE the overseas experience? Maybe in the current climate we feel more latitude to express individuality? Bear in mind, I rather hope it speaks to ‘mutts’ of ALL ilk and races. I am forced to acknowledge that this was a young man’s play. Ultimately we arrive at reconciliation with our society in our OWN ways.  


How do you hope the play will be received this time around? And would you have changed anything in the script?

I suppose I hope they’ll watch the play with the above sentiments. With nostalgia – and much kindness. To be frank, It was what I wrote at a certain point in my Life. It’s become a fossil in quartz, as it were – and special to me for that fact.  


What’s keeping you busy lately?

 Working on a new play. Ideas bristling like porcupine quills – but youth’s focus and bravado eludes me these days.  


Will you be watching the play?

 Damn right I’ll be watching the play! Every night, probably…I just hope I still have enough clout to get a fortnight of comps!

About the play

The Instant Café Theatre Company presents GOLD RAIN & HAILSTONES
by Jit Murad

Directed by: Gavin Yap

Featuring: Ghafir Akbar, Sharifah Amani, Redza Minhat, Farah Rani

Venue: DPAC Theatre

Performance Dates & Times 

March 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 @ 8.30PM 

March 2, 3, 9, 10 @ 3PM

Tickets: RM65, RM50

Golden Tickets: Be a Golden Ticket Buyer! Instant Café is dedicated to the idea of keeping ticket prices low! You can help us do that by buying a Golden Ticket for only RM150. A Golden Ticket gets you absolutely nothing but a warm special feeling that you have played some part in subsidizing theatre tickets and spreading the love of theatre in Malaysia. Yes, you have now become an Instant Patron of the Arts. Oh and you also get a choice of the best seats in the house. It doesn’t get any more Golden than that.

DPAC Box Office:; 03-4065 0001, 03-4065 0002

Golden Tickets available at dpac or by emailing us at: [email protected]

Instant Café Theatre Company Sdn Bhd Bank Details: RHB, 2140 3500 133 062  


View Website


Gold Rain and Hailstones is a Malaysian classic by acclaimed playwright Jit Murad. It was first staged to critical acclaim in 1993, hailed as the best play of the year, moving audiences to laughter and tears. In conjunction with the production we will be holding writing workshops, talkback sessions and a Masterclass. This is the opening production to mark Instant Café’s 30th Anniversary. We are still in need of funding to stage this play. To find out more about how you can support Instant Café, this play and our work please contact us at [email protected]

BookXcess launches the first BookXcess out of Kuala Lumpur at Gurney Paragon Mall, Penang

BookXcess launches the first BookXcess out of Kuala Lumpur at Gurney Paragon Mall, Penang

BookXcess launches the first BookXcess out of Kuala Lumpur at Gurney Paragon Mall, Penang

Featuring the longest bookshelf in Malaysia at 70 metres in length and a two-storey bookshelf measuring 10 metres high, the BookXcess team brings you a uniquely diverse selection of   sought-after titles. Book lovers can expect a variety of books from art and design to literature, fiction, non-fiction, young adult, children’s books and many more hidden gems. Exclusively for BookXcess, parents of young ones will also find Little Hippo augmented reality (AR) books available at the store. AR books create an immersive, interactive reading experience. Children will be able to read, play and learn with these AR books as it uses cutting-edge AR technology to revolutionize reading for the next generation.

“One of the reasons there are so few avid readers in Malaysia is that books are very expensive. Books cost a lot in relation to the average person’s income and this is a barrier for many book lovers. As such, BookXcess’ goal is to make reading popular again; for books to become a household item that everyone can afford,” shared Andrew Yap, Founder of BookXcess Sdn. Bhd.

Taking up the entire 7th floor and part of the 8th floor, covering 26,000 sq. ft, BookXcess Gurney Paragon Mall features a children’s section which offers a breath-taking view of the ocean, providing inspiration for young readers to spark their curious minds. The bookstore also features comfortable reading spaces for customers to browse the sample books available. In addition, customers can also visit Café Wolf, BookXcess’ very own in-store café for refreshments or a quick bite.

According to Hunza Group Executive Director, Ms. Khor Tze Ming, “Shoppers nowadays enjoy getting lost in a cosy feeling of peace and quiet where books have their back amidst the crazy buzz of a busy mall. The establishment of BookXcess is a great complement to the mushrooming of international schools in Penang, which is in line with the state government’s vision in transforming our state into an international city with high-income economy that is knowledge-intensive.”

BookXcess Gurney Paragon Mall is also Red Readerhood’s first long-term initiative in Penang. Started in 2011, Red Readerhood gives back to communities by working together with local organisations to give books to those in need. Customers can purchase and donate a book at the Red Readerhood corner, and for every book a customer donates, BookXcess will match it with another book. The first four homes that will benefit from this initiative are House of Hope, The Salvation Army, St. Joseph’s Home and Hope Worldwide Penang.


Customers can also stay updated on the latest BookXcess news on:


About BookXcess

BookXcess has built a reputation for offering a wide selection of books – from bestselling novels, children’s books, cooking and architecture to literature, history, evergreen classics and décor – at hugely discounted prices. As a remainder bookstore, it offers a wide range of overprinted and unsold copies from publishers around the world. The company’s primary aim is to encourage the joy of reading by making books available at affordable prices.

BookXcess opened its first outlet in Amcorp Mall in 2007, and has retail outlets at the Starling, fahrenheit88, as well as gift stores called BookXcess XS in 1 Utama, SS15 Courtyard and Centro Mall, Klang. In May 2018, BookXcess also launched the nation’s biggest and only 24-hour bookstore at Tamarind Square. The company also offers online shopping at to meet the needs of customers outside the Klang Valley.

About Gurney Paragon Mall

Located in Gurney Drive, Gurney Paragon Mall is the premier shopping mall in Penang Island, built around and inspired by the former St. Joseph’s Novitiate – converted into St. Jo’s, an area for stylish restaurants and cafes steeped in the architecture of Penang’s heritage. Spanning 700,000 sq. ft. NLA over nine floors, Gurney Paragon Mall offers a superb mix of fashion and lifestyle brands, sea breeze-fronting al-fresco dining areas as well as the first IMAX screen in Penang. It provides a memorable experience to all shoppers and pleasure seekers.

Gurney Paragon Mall was also certified as a national record holder of The Malaysia Book of Records with the achievement of “First Shopping Mall Integrated With A Heritage Building”. Other achievements include “Best Retail Development Malaysia (5 Star) – Asia Pacific Property Awards Development 2018-2019”, “Best Experiential Marketing” Silver Award 2017 & 2018 by Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK)”, “FIABCI Malaysia Property Award 2015 (Retail Category)” and etc.

For media inquiries please contact:

Renuka Ramalingam

PR Manager, BookXcess Sdn. Bhd.

[email protected], +6017 5754450

Preserving our environment with “Grub Cycle”

Preserving our environment with “Grub Cycle”


By  Seely 

Redza Shahid (29) Co-founded Grub Cycle in June 2016. At first, Grub Cycle had 4 cofounders Asyraf, Hawanisa, Chacha and himself. The idea of starting up a social enterprise was first conceived when he was still doing his University studies. He realised that he needed to do more than what he was learning in the University so together with his friend they joined and volunteered in several charity organisations to help out orphanages and to paint houses. At that moment he was working at an investment company and the boss gave him an idea of how to start a social enterprise and fully encouraged him by submitting his name to a social enterprise programme then, organised by MaGIC in early 2015.

Due to this, Redza was given a KPI (Key Performance Index) to learn more about social enterprises such as the business
model, leaders of social enterprise, and other topics that are related to social enterprise. After one year, he was told to upgrade his position by deciding whether to join a social enterprise or to start on his own. In December 2016, Redza and the other 3 cofounders successfully raised up to RM 1 million grant and at that time there were a few investors that wanted to invest in their social enterprise.

Grub Cycle has 3 stakeholders that play crucial roles, the Co-founders, Investors and Consumers. The main purposes of Grub Cycle are, firstly, to reduce food waste in Malaysia while the other companies are focusing more on food composting. Redza believed that rather sending the food for composting, the edible food should be sold at a lower price. Secondly is to reduce daily expenses for their consumers, in fact, the grocery price had increased by 25% since 2010 but, the average salary in Malaysia has only increased by 20% within the same period. Lastly, Redza’s personal reason was a hope of attraction and encouragement towards other potential social entrepreneurs by involving himself in the social entrepreneurial industry.

How Grub Cycle Works 

Since Grub Cycle launched back in 2016, it has emphasized its focus on reducing food wastage and ensuring that the low-income community can spend less money on food. So the question is what has been done in order to bring this idea to life. Below are some of the Grub Cycle offers to the public and how they can reach out directly to their customers and community.

Grub Groceries

A survey was conducted and it was discovered that there is an increased amount of food waste from local supermarkets and about 15,000 tonnes daily wastes from these supermarkets. 3,000 tonnes out of the 15,000 tonnes will still be edible and 10% is from groceries and supermarkets. This is because 30% – 50% of the products that are shown on the shelves in the supermarket are being thrown away. Grub Cycle obtains surplus food products from their partner supermarkets at an affordable price. These products are either 1 – 3 months from the expiring date. However, these products will be fully ensured and validated for their edibility. Grub Cycle will then sell these items from the website, mobile app or any other means convenient to their customers and delivered to them at no delivery cost.

Grub Mobile
This is like a mobile kiosk but in form of a food truck. It will be visiting low-income community areas 3 hours a day selling surplus food directly to the low-income community. However, If the customers are technology literate, they are able to order and buy online.

Grub Homemade
With this Grub Homemade, Grub Cycle improvises by turning surplus fruits or vegetables that might have been deemed rejected by the supermarket or that is not into a farm-to-table product. Examples include cabbage kimchi, pineapple jam, apple cinnamon and chili chutney. Grub Cycle in-house Chef-In Residence meticulously develops recipes based on high-quality food commodities that would otherwise go to the bin. Don’t worry: they are not recycling expired goods.

Grub Bag
Grub bag is one of the ways the Grub Cycle gives back to the community by subsidizing low-income families’ food essentials. It comprises of rice, cooking oil, sugar, salt and eggs. Grub Cycle delivers Grub Bag to the families on a monthly basis with the hope to lessen the burden of the families in need & empower their economy! But this model is rarely.


On launching the social enterprise, there are three main objectives that have been driving Grub Cycle daily to maximum productivity. Measuring their social impact performance could be done easily by comparing the KPI (Key Performance Index) of these main objectives. These objectives can be considered in a way that Grub Cycle has been contributing heavily to the socioeconomic needs of the society.

Reduce Food Waste
Edible surplus food from grocery stores and cafes are being prevented from wastage daily, considering that 30% – 50% of the products that are shown on the shelves in supermarkets are being thrown away based on the survey. Grub Cycle buys these surplus edible products from the grocery stores at a lower price which encourages the grocery store to still make money out of what was meant to be wasted. Lastly, Grub Cycle will sell these products to their customers below market price.

Another way Grub Cycle has been preventing wastage of food is by collecting the fruits or vegetables that had been deemed unsellable due to their shape for instance. They are then turned into a farm-to-table product. This is through Grub Homemade model.

So, as individuals, how can we personally prevent food wastage or what can we do about food wastage?

  •  As a food producer, you can reduce wastage by investing in better harvest and storage-technology to avoid food loss
  • As a retailer, you can reduce the price of those imperfectly shaped or shapeless vegetables or donate the unsellable yet edible surplus grocery food to those in need rather than disposing of them.
  • Revising those sell-by expiration dates so that the perfect and safe food products are not discarded.
  • Raising awareness on food wastage education such as what Grub Cycle is doing should be highly encouraged.
  • Food that is not fit for human consumption should be fed to the animals.
  • As an individual consumer,  you should be more careful when shopping and only pick the necessary things.
  • We can also use better methods to store and recycle leftovers and request smaller portions in restaurants.
  • Food wastage pyramid is based on garbage, so as policy-makers, they can enhance the ability of producers, retailers and consumers to turn that pyramid around.

With all that Grub Cycle has done and measuring their social impact performance to prevent food wastage, Grub Cycle has also managed to save 2201 kg of food from being wasted and this number is still increasing.

Save Money
Foodies will get the satisfaction of their money’s worth with every inexpensive purchase. To reduce daily expenses for customers, as a matter of fact, the grocery price has been increased by 25% since 2010 but the average salary in Malaysia has only increased by 20% within the same period based on a survey by Grub Cycle through an interview. With this issue at hand, the low-income community is unable to make ends meet when it comes to buying food or grocery products. But with the Grub Grocery and Grub Mobile, all those low-income community areas are able to have direct access to a below market price surplus food.

Help Others
Grub Cycle Co-founder has taken pride in himself to be someone who really cares about the less privileged community and he constantly encourages other entrepreneurs to also contribute to the community positively. So Grub Cycle encourages everyone to become an agent of change in their respective community. This can be done by buying from Grub Cycle because with each item sold, a percentage of Grub Cycle’s profit will benefit the underprivileged. Till date according to the Grub Cycle website as at the writing of this article, 250 Grub Bags had been delivered.

Food waste is one of the biggest concern of the world. In fact, by 2050, the world needs to produce at least 50% extra food to feed 9 billion people. While 25% of crop yield may be decreased because of climate change. Moreover, most of the food
manufacturing companies, municipalities, supermarkets, restaurants, and the federal government start applying practices and critical strategies for decreasing food waste[1].

Take Malaysia, for instance, food waste is a huge problem. Based on the SWCorp Malaysia, a government agency which deals with solid waste stated that they generate 38,000 tonnes of waste per day and around 50% of the solid waste is food waste. Moreover, out of 50% of solid waste, 60% of waste that going to landfill is still edible which in fact, that could have fed 2,000,000 people. SWCorp has also stated that food waste can increase up to 50% during the festival season.  There have been many movements to combat the food wastage in Malaysia. There are groups trying to recycle the food that is unsaleable at supermarkets. One of them is the Grub Cycle[2].

Grub Cycle is a part of the global movement to combat and decrease food waste and to save the environment. There is a creative way that was used by people from all over the world to combat food waste such as creative marketing incentive that celebrates “ugly” fruits and vegetables. Grub Cycle itself has launched a Grub Mobile which is the first mobile kiosk and it is located in Bukit Lanchong.

According to Grub Cycle website, they have contributed towards saving approximately 2,201 kg of food, saving the consumer expenses of around RM 20,958 with 250 Grub Bags delivered. This proves us that the Grub Cycle model is really working and the effects have also made impacts on people such as, firstly reducing waste by saving edible surplus food from cafes and grocery stores from being thrown away. Secondly, is saving money which foodies will get their satisfaction with their money’s worth with every inexpensive purchase.

In the future, Redza hopes that there are other social enterprises with the same passion and mission as similar to Grub Cycle to combat food waste. This will enable us to work side by side and cut down on the food waste in Malaysia. Redza believes that there are not enough social entrepreneurs to bring about positive changes to the community and environment. If there are enough social enterprises contributing to the same mission similar to Grub Cycle, food waste in Malaysia will cut down to the maximum level.


Grub Cycle is planning on having their own physical grocery supermarket here in Malaysia as a start before the end of this year 2018. With this kind of push, it can change perspectives on food wastage and bring positivity towards the idea of preventing food wastage. It will also be easier for the low-income community to purchase their grocery products at a lower price. Grub Cycle is also looking forward to expanding within the South East Asian Countries like Singapore for a start.

For more information on Grub Cycle feel free to visit our website and view our various products 


To bring truth is to bring peace

To bring truth is to bring peace

Dear colleagues,

My goal in being a reporter is to promote peace.

I have been covering stories of violence in Thailand’s Deep South for five years. I have grown tired and frustrated with what I have witnessed, but a story of a young woman, Khurosmor Tuwaebuecha kept me going.

Khurosmor lost her husband, Abduldayib Dolah in December 2015. A military group in the Pattani province detained him for they thought he was a member of the Runda Kumplan Kecilm, a militant Islamic insurgent group. He died after twenty-six days in detention. Khurosmor believes he was tortured.

I personally talked to Khurosmor in August 15, 2016. I met her three children, all of them in primary school age. She was also looking after her brother’s children—two boys—after he disappeared while under military custody.

One can only imagine the fear and pain she was experiencing. But Khurosmor had the resolve to act and decided to sue the army. She lost in her first court case but did not lost hope. She filed an appeal. Her family, she said, deserves justice.

As journalist, I considered this story of prime importance. Hers is a story not of a victim, but of someone who fights even when the odds are stacked against her.

I did further research and found reports documenting over sixty people who have fallen victim to torture and human rights violations in Southern Thailand. Human rights groups documented cases of suffocation using a plastic bag and strangulation, among others. More than 6,000 people are under custody, justified under Thailand’s state of emergency laws.

I sought the side of a military spokesperson and the Secretary General of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre. They denied the allegations of torture. They told me I got the wrong information especially on torture. They told me not to report my story.

Their reaction was predictable. Politely, I told them I would like to help bring peace to the Deep South by doing my job as a journalist.

Inspired by Khurosmor’s courage, I continued investigating these cases. I read reports of Amnesty International, among others, and learned that the use of torture takes place in our neighbouring countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

After writing the script and completing the shoot, I sent my package to the organisation that commissioned my work. They told me to reconsider my story, perhaps change my script. They discouraged me from broadcasting my report for it portrays a negative view of Thailand to the international community. I rejected this request. Media organisations are not public relations companies.

On August 28-29, 2016, my story went on air in the evening news program on Thai PBS.

I share this story to you because I think we share similar problems of violence, intimidation, and suppression of speech. But we know we cannot solve a problem by hiding facts. Violence, whether it is in Thailand’s Deep South, or the Philippines’ secret detention facilities, cannot be eradicated without the press reporting these atrocities.

To bring truth is to bring peace.

Yours in solidarity,
Hathairat (Wist) Phaholtap

Hathairat (Wist) Phaholtap (@Hathai_Thai PBS) is a journalist for Thai PBS. She is best known for her work on human rights in Thailand.

Freedom from self-censorship

Freedom from self-censorship

Hi there,

My name is Annabelle, and this March marks my first year as a journalist.

I work at one of the few independent newsrooms in Malaysia, a country ranked 144 out of 180 for press freedom last year (North Korea polled 180), where “mainstream media” is made up of mastheads owned by political parties that form the federal government.

When I began, I was repeatedly warned that I would be barred from events because of the supposedly “anti-government” organisation I represent. I was also told to be prepared for catcalls and sexual innuendoes by virtue of being a woman in the “dirty” field of political reporting.

When an article revealed that male politicians sexually harassed some of my female colleagues, to my horror, our journalist union chief’s advice to female journalists was to not dress “sex”.

“That’s just how things are,” I was told. Welcome to journalism.

I was lucky when allowed into events I was assigned to cover. On more than one occasion, I merely smiled when inappropriate remarks were directed at me.

Annabelle and team conducting interviews with local community leaders in rural Sabah about how oil palm plantations has affected their livelihood (Credit: Malaysiakini)

I would love to say I was unfazed by all this, but the truth is I was constantly considering self-censorship.

This negotiation was tiring and frankly, suffocating. It distracted me from pursuing the truth and held me back from holding those in power accountable.

It wasn’t until I shared my frustrations with other women in the field when I stopped worrying so much.

Despite being from different newsrooms, experienced female journalists encouraged me to press harder for answers when I considered holding back. They assured me that if anyone at work was inappropriate towards me, they would stand in solidarity as I reported it. Often, when on assignment together, we would work as a team to try and shake answers out from the powers that be.

I found a lot of comfort and strength in them. They became my mentors and friends.

Today, I don’t feel like I am negotiating press freedom as an individual anymore. We are a tribe, and we are fighting both battles together – for press freedom and against a deeply patriarchal culture.

This International Women’s Day, my hope is that women work together to record history through journalism. Journalism needs to prove that it can be a trusted and relevant source of information at a time when “truth” is an increasingly contested concept.

And as Malaysia decides her fourteenth government this year, I urge my colleagues to band together as we push to deliver truth to the people.

In solidarity,

Annabelle Lee (@annabellybutton) is a journalist at She writes about current affairs and politics.