5 News Reports a Week Censored by Government

by Mick Meaney | RINF Breaking News

Using a Freedom of Information Act request, RINF News has obtained information that reveals the British Government’s attempts to censor news reports in the UK mainstream media.

Each week the Government tries to block the publication of approximately five news stories through Defence Advisory Notices (DA Notices).

DA Notices are an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast reports for reasons of national security. DA Notices are a request and therefore not legally enforceable – news editors can choose to ignore them, however the majority editors in the British media comply with requests.

The total number of such requests for DA Notice advice in 2009 was 286 (an average of 5.5 per week). So far in 2010 a further 194 requests for DA Notice advice have been made (an average to date of 5.9 per week).

While the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC) cannot reveal which news agenices have been sent a request, at least one request has been been to all national newspapers and broadcast channels during 2009-2010.

DA Notice requests are rarely ignored, in fact editors refused to comply total of just five times in 2009 – and none so far in 2010.

DPBAC Secretary, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance CB OBE, said: “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.

“The system is overseen by the DPBAC an independent joint government/media body that approves the Standing DA Notices and monitors their implementation.

“When a major news story is unfolding which might be connected with sensitive national security issues, the Secretary may write to all UK editors to alert them of the possible need to seek his advice before publication or broadcast. These are generally known as Advisories”.

There are currently five standing DA Notices:
1. Military Operations & Capabilities
2. Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapons and Equipment
3. Ciphers and Secure Communications
4. Sensitive Installations and Home Addresses
5. National Intelligence Agencies and Special Forces

In 2009, the Secretary sent 10 advisories to the media, 3 concerning DA Notice 1 (Military Operations and Capabilities) and 7 concerning DA Notice 5 (National Intelligence Agencies and Special Forces).

So far in 2010, 4 advisories were sent to the media, 1 each concerning DA Notices 2 (Nuclear & Non-Nuclear Weapons and Equipment) and 4 (Sensitive Installations and Home Addresses) and 2 concerning DA Notice 5 (National Intelligence Agencies and Special Forces).

Mr. Vallance also states: “When the occasion demands, the Secretary may also write to an individual editor to point out when something which has been published or broadcast has – in the Secretary’s opinion – breached DA Notice guidelines. The object of such letters is to alert an editor to this to help avoid an inadvertent recurrence and to remind him/her that DA Notice advice is available 24/7 for future stories.

“In 2009, I sent out 5 such letters (all concerning DA Notice 5 – National Intelligence Agencies and Special Forces). So far, I have not sent out any of this type of letter in 2010.”