D-Notices

 UK press censorship of defence issues



24th October
2008
  

Kicked in the Rear Admiral...

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D-Notice history book censored by D-Notice committee
Air Vice-Marshal Vallance

Spell checker & censor
Air Vice-Marshal Vallance

There is a long tradition of the military suppressing news that it considers detrimental to national security by slapping a D-notice on it.

But when the D-notice committee decided that the time was ripe to publish its own official history, nobody imagined that it would fall victim to its own system. The history of the D-notice committee has, in effect, had a D-notice slapped on it by the D-notice committee.

Secrecy and the Media , written by Rear-Admiral Nick Wilkinson, who was secretary of the committee from 1999 to 2004, should have been hitting all good bookshops this month, according to the academic publisher Routledge's website.

The book will now be published in May, but without its final five chapters. These cover the Blair years, charting the winding-down of the Irish terrorist campaigns and the War on Terror.

The censored chapters will eventually be published in a later edition of the book after a change of administration.

The Times has learnt that the manuscript was cleared for publication by all the relevant government departments MI5, SIS, GCHQ and the Foreign, Home and Cabinet offices, as well as the Treasury Solicitor and the Attorney-General. However, when it arrived at the Ministry of Defence it was passed not to the department's security and legal experts but to the current D-notice secretary, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance.

He advised that the book be withdrawn altogether for reasons of style and structure, and that a new official history should be commissioned, to be written instead by a trained historian , a source has told The Times. He said: It's poorly presented history. It's very thorough, but it's just difficult to read.

The air vice-marshal's view was endorsed by the MoD

 

9th November
2008
  

Update: D-Censors...


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More D-Notices issued by the Government

MOD logo Seven D-notices were sent to all UK newspaper editors by the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC) in 2007 and a further five so far this year, Defence Minister Kevan Jones revealed in a written parliamentary reply published.

This compares with just two being issued in each of the previous three years from 2003, one in 2002, three in 2001, two in 2000, three in 1999 and none in either 1998 or 1997.

The D-Notice system, which is a virtual blanket publication ban, is a voluntary code that began back in 1912 to provide guidance to the British media on the publication or broadcasting of national security information.

The committee, a joint government-media body, says the objective is to prevent inadvertent public disclosure of information that would compromise UK military and intelligence operations and methods, or put at risk the safety of those involved in such operations, or lead to attacks that would damage the critical national infrastructure and/or endanger lives.

No details are given of the latest bans. Some journalists have argued that the bans often include subjects that are merely unflattering to government, rather than a matter of national defence and thus are a form of soft censorship.

 

24th June
2009
  

Review: Secrecy and the Media...


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The Official History of the D-notice System: 1

Secrecy and the Media book The official history of the D notice system, the voluntary self-censorship arrangement between the media and Whitehall, has just been published - though, ironically, only after five chapters had been excised.

The history, written by Rear Admiral Nicholas Wilkinson, one of the more enlightened past secretaries of the Committee, provides telling insights into the relationships between editors and Britain's defence, security and intelligence establishment. The voluntary nature of the D notice system - it has no legal status - meant that personal friendships were crucial. Some would say they still are.

Plans are afoot to publish the full history - including the past 12 years - as soon as Labour is out of power. Self-censorship acts in mysterious ways.

 


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