Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has criticised a Straits Times (ST) article for making untrue assumptions about a recent video he did with local actress Michelle Chong, regarding the recently passed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).
In her famous “Ah Lian” persona, Ms Chong interviewed the Minister about the anti-fake news law and the Minister made clarifications on what the law covers and how corrections may be issued. He confirmed that criticisms against the Government and that unknowingly “liking” or sharing possible fake news would not be covered by the law.
The video – which was created and published well before POFMA was passed – has accumulated over half a million views since it was published on Facebook on 5 May. It was also published in other video platforms like YouTube.
Premium Lian interview Dua Liap Minister K Shanmugam Sc.
Posted by Michelle Chong on Friday, 3 May 2019
On Sunday (19 May), the national broadsheet published a premium article, entitled ‘The art of soft sell: Political leaders changing how they communicate with public’, which noted that the Minister’s video with Chong was “light-hearted and unorthodox” despite the serious and controversial topic.
Pointing to other videos, in which the Minister has casual chats about POFMA with other television personalities, the ST article asserted that the “reaction has been mixed” and that critics “”cringed” at the unusual approach to explaining government policy.”
The ST article said, “These videos are emblematic of how Singapore’s political leaders, and more broadly the Government, have turned to different channels to explain policies and convince the electorate of their merits.”
Noting that social media has become a catalyst for new approaches politicians may use to present themselves, the ST article said that there are “potential pitfalls” to such an approach.
The writers of the article interviewed several individuals who felt that the end result could be “stiff and awkward”, oversimplify salient issues, or in Mr Shanmugam’s case, possibly come off contrary to his “no nonsense brand identity”.
Taking issue with the ST article’s take on his video with Ms Chong, Mr Shanmugam criticised the article in a Facebook post published yesterday. Asserting that the ST article made untrue assumptions and overlooked important facts, he wrote:
“ST published an article, “The Art of Soft Sell” (19 May) on the video that I did with Michelle Chong. The ST article assumes that the video was intended to convey detailed points about the new online falsehoods legislation. But the video was not intended for that purpose.
“It was one part of a multi-faceted engagement and communications effort. This included numerous media briefings and interviews, Op Eds, ground engagements and numerous dialogues with different stakeholders, including academics, lawyers, other professionals, as well as grassroots leaders (a few thousand).
“The Michelle Chong video sought to reach those with limited time or interest and who might have wanted to know only some key points. This included people which mainstream media does not reach. And I believe we succeeded in reaching this group.
“Our conservative estimate is that the video was viewed by over 1 million people, and with a reach which was likely even wider. The feedback, numbering in the thousands, has been overwhelmingly positive – including young journalists from other media beside ST. I am reasonably confident that the video reached more people than those who read news articles in MSM. We had hoped that after watching the video, some might then go on to follow the debate in greater detail.
“For some reason, all these facts seem to have been overlooked by ST. Instead it found and highlighted the views of a few persons who didn’t like the video, or thought that it was not an appropriate way to engage. We too heard from people with such views, but they were a small number.
“We have to try out different ways to communicate policies, not least because mainstream media does not reach everyone. This is why the Ministry of Finance tried social influencers to communicate the Budget a couple of years ago. That is why the Government has stepped up ground engagement through such means as Reach, the Silver Generation Office and the Community Network for Seniors. And this is why I did the video with Michelle Chong, which went viral.
“MinLaw had earlier pointed out (but not reported by ST), that the money spent on such a non-mainstream video is a fraction of what the Government spends on advertisements in the mainstream media.”
Read his post in full HERE.