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Singapore Kindness Movement thanks press for ‘positive’ stories, but omits media from survey on who is responsible for gracious behaviour

Who do you think is responsible for making Singapore a gracious place to live in?

Question: Who do you think is responsible for making Singapore a gracious place to live in?

The head of the Singapore Kindness Movement, an NGO set up to encourage Singaporeans to be nicer to one another, said at a press conference today that he was grateful to the mainstream press for publishing so many “positive” news stories this year.

“Thank you, the media, for so many more positive stories this year,” said Dr William Wan, general secretary for the Singapore Kindness Movement.

“It used to be said that bad news sells. But look at the way you’ve written about the disaster in Nepal. We should be very proud. That kind of reporting creates the perception that we are a positive people, that we’re optimistic and appreciative of our neighbours, and we step up and do wonderful things,” he said.

The Singapore Kindness Movement published its annual Graciousness Index today, which found that Singapore is perceived to be a more gracious society than it was a year ago – although the actual experience of kind acts has fallen year on year.

One of the survey questions was, “Who do you think is responsible for making Singapore a gracious place to live in?” But the media was not an option given to survey respondents, who chose the government as the most responsible party for making Singapore a more gracious place – above themselves.

One of the survey’s organisers told Mumbrella that omitting media from the survey was an oversight, and it would most likely be included as a survey response option next year.

In response to Mumbrella’s question about the impact of Singapore Press Holdings’ citizen journalism website Stomp on behaviour in Singapore, Dr Wan said he was opposed to the site being a platform for public shaming.

“I am one of those who tries to say to the publisher, please don’t Stomp,” said Dr Wan. “Maybe Stomp more positive things. Shaming is not the right thing to do [to change behaviour for the better]. If you are a weak person, and you are shamed for something like littering, you will feel useless.”

Cesar Balota, associate secretary general, marketing and strategy, for Singapore Kindness Movement, suggested that Stomp had been “fairly quiet” over the last six months, and the site “appears to be controlling their content”.

Last year, a month after a petition launched to have Stomp closed down, the editor-in-chief of SPH’s English and Malay newspapers Patrick Daniel, told Mumbrella that the company would be reviewing the site to see whether its content policy needed to change.

On the topic of Amos Yee, the vlogger detained for posting a video critical of the former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and harangued online as a result, Wan said that the same rules must apply to the online world as offline.

“Online vigilantes are no different to offline vigilantes,” he said.

“I’ve already shared my views on Amos Yee. Whatever he’s done, the law will take its course. I don’t agree with him, but I empathise with why he’s angry. I don’t think what happened to him [online attacks] should be tolerated,” he said.

'Happiness from the skies'

‘Happiness from the skies’

Wan defended the motivation of commercial partners to piggyback Singapore Kindness Movement’s activities to polish the reputation of their brands. SKM partnered with Coke and Ogilvy last year to launched the ‘Happiness from the skies’ campaign, which saw bottles of coke delivered to construction workers by drones.

On how SKM selects its partners, and whether it is wary of being exploited, Wan said: “Difficulties can arise when things move too fast, and we’re not given enough time to do due diligence. But we become quickly aware when the motivations of a commercial partner do not align with our own – and Coke’s values align with ours.”

On whether agencies use SKM to win fame at awards shows, Wan said: “We enter awards ourselves. For me, it’s neither here nor there. Any business entity we partner with, will want some sort of commercial return.”

SKM’s next big campaign is around an event later this month that aims to show the consequences of people’s behaviour. The event, called ImagiNation, is part of Kindness Day SG which is now in its third year. SKM uploaded a video trailer for the event last night.

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