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Nithin Coca

Kyoto, Japan
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About Nithin
Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on social and economic issues in developing countries, and has specific expertise in Southeast Asia. He is based partly in San Francisco, CA, Kyoto, Japan, and Jakarta, Indonesia.

Coca's feature and news pieces have appeared in global media outlets including Al Jazeera, Quartz, Forbes Asia, SciDev.Net, Southeast Asia Globe, The Diplomat, Vice and numerous regional publications in Asia and the United States. Coca is actively looking for new opportunities
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Feature Stories Content Writing Research
Politics Current Affairs Technology

Who’s Getting Rich Off Profit-Driven 'Clicktivism'

01 Oct 2023  |  www.vice.com
The article explores the profit-driven nature of online petition platforms like Change.org, highlighting how these platforms commodify clicks and generate significant revenue while their social impact remains uncertain. It contrasts the simplistic, viral nature of successful petitions with the complex, global issues that are often overlooked. The piece also discusses the potential of open-source, community-driven digital tools to create meaningful change, using an Indonesian NGO's efforts to combat human trafficking as an example. The article is critical of the current model of 'clicktivism' and suggests that resources could be better allocated to empower local change in developing countries.

Ahok’s defeat says less about the rise of Islamism and more about the strength of entrenched political interests.

20 Apr 2023  |  thediplomat.com
The article discusses the defeat of Jakarta's incumbent governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama by Anies Baswedan, analyzing it as less of a sign of rising Islamism and more as an indication of the power of entrenched political interests. The election result is seen as a shock, with comparisons to Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. The author, Nithin Coca, suggests that the use of religious and ethnic appeals to delegitimize Ahok was a new strategy in Indonesia, highlighting the role of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in organizing mass rallies against him. The article also touches on the potential implications for future elections, including the 2019 presidential race, and the possibility that the use of religion as a wedge issue could lead to the rise of a conservative-religious political leader, changing the secular and tolerant nature of Indonesian politics.

Exposed: The links between Indonesia’s deforestation and Xinjiang

14 Apr 2023  |  Al Jazeera
Indonesia's deforestation, driven by companies like PT Toba Pulp Lestari and APRIL, is linked to the production of dissolving wood pulp for viscose, which is exported to China, including Xinjiang. These practices have led to land seizures and conflicts with local communities. The viscose industry in Xinjiang, dominated by Zhongtai Chemical Co, is implicated in forced labor of Uighurs. Despite sustainability efforts by some brands, Indonesian DWP exports to China have grown, and companies like TPL and APRIL plan to expand, potentially increasing deforestation. NGOs like KSPPM and AMAN Tano Batak advocate for community rights, while Canopy and other environmental groups work to reduce deforestation risks. TPL and APRIL deny allegations and claim adherence to sustainability policies.

China labour watchdogs face tough tradeoffs to keep access alive

10 Aug 2022  |  www.aljazeera.com
The article discusses the challenges faced by labour and human rights watchdogs operating in China, particularly in the Xinjiang region, amid allegations of forced labour and human rights abuses. It highlights the compromises and tough decisions these organizations must make to maintain access and effectiveness under the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Xi Jinping. The Better Cotton Initiative's delayed exit from Xinjiang and the criticism it faced for its handling of the situation are central to the narrative. The article also examines the limitations and criticisms of various labour monitoring initiatives and the impact of China's strict controls and surveillance on their operations.

COP26 Is Silent on Human Rights in China

09 Nov 2021  |  Foreign Policy
The article criticizes the silence of environmental organizations and governments at COP26 on human rights abuses in China, particularly in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. It highlights the tension between addressing climate change and acknowledging human rights violations, with some organizations prioritizing climate cooperation over human rights advocacy. The article underscores the need for a balanced approach that considers both environmental and human rights issues, questioning the effectiveness of engaging with China's authoritarian regime without addressing its human rights record.

Chinese Tourists Are Beijing’s Newest Economic Weapon

26 Sep 2018  |  Foreign Policy
China has begun using tourism as a strategic tool to exert economic pressure on other countries, as seen in its response to South Korea's deployment of the THAAD missile defense system. By restricting outbound tourists, China can significantly impact the tourism industries of targeted nations. This tactic has been effective against South Korea and Palau and poses a potential threat to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Taiwan has managed to mitigate the impact by diversifying its inbound tourism sources. The Chinese government's control over tour agencies and the growing number of independent Chinese travelers are key factors in this strategy. The use of tourism as a coercive tool is difficult to counter and may become a regular part of Beijing's geopolitical arsenal.

Islamic Leaders Have Nothing to Say About China’s Internment Camps for Muslims

24 Jul 2018  |  Foreign Policy
The article highlights the severe persecution of Uighur Muslims in China's Xinjiang region, including internment camps, surveillance, and religious restrictions. Despite the gravity of the situation, Muslim leaders and countries have largely remained silent, influenced by economic ties and political considerations with China. The article contrasts this silence with the vocal support for other Muslim causes like Palestine and Rohingya. It also explores the potential for change in countries like Malaysia and Turkey, where political dynamics and cultural connections to the Uighurs could lead to more vocal opposition to China's actions.

Indonesia’s death penalty crisis Nithin Coca explores the country’s pressing human rights issue.

The story is a complex web of deceit, connecting the ruling elite, royalty, investment banks and offshore tax havens. Nithin Coca reports.

Feature piece on whether satellites can help save the world's rainforests.

The high-tech war on Tibetan communication

27 Jun 2017  |  Engadget
The article discusses the heightened security measures in Tibet every March 10th, the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising. It details the cyberattacks on Tibetan organizations, particularly the Voice of Tibet (VOT), and the Chinese government's efforts to control information and propagate its narrative. The article covers the evolution of the information battle from radio waves to the internet and the role of organizations like the Tibet Action Institute in improving digital security among Tibetans. It also highlights the challenges posed by apps like WeChat, which is popular among Tibetans but poses security risks. The article emphasizes the ongoing struggle for Tibetans to maintain communication and spread information despite China's repressive measures and sophisticated cyber espionage tactics.

The slow creep and chilling effect of China’s censorship

20 Aug 2016  |  The Daily Dot
The article discusses the severe censorship and information control in China, particularly in the regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. It highlights the case of Sonam Tso, a Tibetan mother who self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule, and how news of her death was suppressed for over six weeks. The Chinese government's tactics include internet shutdowns, intimidation of journalists' sources, and arrests for sharing sensitive content. The use of VPNs is risky, and Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat are heavily monitored. The chilling effect of these measures leads to widespread self-censorship among Tibetans and Uighurs. The article also notes that China's approach to information control is being extended to the rest of the country and mentions similar trends in other nations. The piece concludes by reflecting on the implications of these practices for the free flow of information in the digital age.

Indonesia's Fire Sale

01 Feb 2016  |  New Internationalist
Nithin Coca reports on the annual burning of Indonesian rainforests for palm oil, timber, and other agribusiness operations, highlighting the severe environmental and health impacts. The city of Pekanbaru in Sumatra experienced dark, polluted conditions due to the fires, which caused significant economic damage and health issues. The fires, exacerbated by El Niño, were preventable and largely due to human actions such as deforestation and draining of peatlands. Major companies like Sinar Mas and Wilmar International, as well as Singaporean and Malaysian investors, are implicated in the fires. Global brands are also connected to the palm oil supply chain, with many not ensuring their palm oil is sourced ethically. The Indonesian government has made promises to address the issue, particularly with the establishment of a peatland restoration initiative and a new commissioner with a green focus at the Corruption Eradication Commission.

Indonesia: What’s left of the left?

23 Jun 2014  |  www.aljazeera.com
Indonesia is preparing for its presidential election, with the country reflecting on its democratic progress since the fall of Suharto's authoritarian regime in 1998. Despite advancements, the Indonesian Communist Party remains banned, a remnant of the anti-communist sentiment that characterized Suharto's rule. Experts and activists argue that lifting such bans is essential for true democratic development, though public and political resistance remains strong. Corruption and personality-driven politics continue to challenge Indonesia's democratic health, with decentralization exacerbating local-level corruption. The future of Indonesia's left-wing politics remains uncertain, as current political parties are rooted in nationalist or moderate Islamic platforms.

Is political Islam rising in Indonesia?

12 May 2014  |  www.aljazeera.com
Indonesia's political landscape is witnessing a rise in the influence of Islamic parties, which collectively garnered 32 percent of the vote in the recent parliamentary elections, an increase from previous years. Despite this, none of these parties advocate for an Islamic state or sharia law, focusing instead on mainstream issues like education and economic policies. The article highlights the historical challenges faced by political Islam in Indonesia and the lack of unity among Islamic parties. It also notes the potential election of Joko Widodo as president and his Christian running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, as a positive sign for religious tolerance and democracy in the country.

Suharto’s ghost stalks Indonesian election

08 Apr 2014  |  www.aljazeera.com
Indonesia's election season sees the resurgence of Suharto's legacy, with his image prominently featured in campaign posters. Golkar, Suharto's former party, leverages nostalgia for his era to gain support, while Aburizal Bakrie, Golkar's candidate, emphasizes strong leadership amidst current economic and social challenges. In contrast, Joko Widodo, the anti-corruption governor of Jakarta, emerges as a popular candidate, appealing to younger voters with his fresh approach and clean image. The election highlights the enduring influence of past leaders and the ongoing struggle between old and new political forces in Indonesia.

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