Over 1,500 ‘D Notices’ have been issued to media outlets in the United Kingdom (UK) in the past five years alone, it’s been revealed.
Last year (between November 2013 and November 2014) there were 233 “enquiries for DA Notice advice,” according to the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPABC).
Releasing the information in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request the DPBAC Secretariat, said: “The great majority of [the 1,551 DA Notices] have been requests from the media to the DPBAC Secretariat for advice, rather than action initiated by the Secretariat on behalf of the DPBAC” - i.e. Government requests not to publish or broadcast.
The DPBAC says it oversees a voluntary code, which operates between the Government departments which have responsibilities for national security and the media.
It says DA Notices - formerly D Notices - are intended to provide newspaper editors, periodicals editors, radio and television organisations and book publishers, with general guidance on those areas of national security, which the Government considers it has a duty to protect.
The Notices have no legal standing and advice offered within their framework may be accepted or rejected in whole or in part, it says.
The figures for the last five years do not provide a breakdown of which organisations were issued with DA Notices or requested D Notice advice or how many times the DA Notices were complied with or otherwise.
But releasing the information the DPABC explained: “The D/DA Notice System has always been a voluntary compact between the national media and those Government departments responsible for aspects of national security (today: The Cabinet Office, Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Ministry of Defence (MoD).
“The System is now overseen by DPBAC – the so-called ‘D Notice Committee.’
“The word ‘advisory’ in the title was added in 1993, but the System was from its inception in 1912 a purely voluntary arrangement.
“The sole concern of the system is to prevent the inadvertent public disclosure of information, which would damage UK national security.
“That System is bounded strictly by the terms of the five Standing DA Notices, (available in full to the world on www.dnotice.org.uk.
“The System has always stood above issues such as corruption, scandal, politics, embarrassment and reputation.
“In 1984, the D Notice Committee was called the Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee or DPBC.
“Like today’s DPBAC, the DPBC was an independent joint media/government body. From the creation of the System in 1912, the Media-side has been predominant in the Committee.
“Today the media provide 15 members to the DPBAC (including the Vice-Chair) and represents all elements of the UK Media (national, regional, local and online newspapers, book publishers, periodical publishers, all the broadcast channels, the Press Association, The Society of Editors, the internet).
“The official side of the Committee provides five members (including the Chair) and represent all of the Ministries directly involved in providing UK national security.
“In 1984 the Vice-Chair (who is always also the media-side Chair) was JM Ramsden (editor-in-chief of Flight International).
“He was a critic of ‘the greater restraints the British press were under than their foreign counterparts’ (as the official history of the D Notice System puts it).
“The then DPBC Secretary (the Committee’s sole permanent executive officer and the only person then authorised by the DPBC to offer D Notice advice) was Rear-Admiral WN Ash.
“In 1984 there were eight standing D Notices (reduced from 12 as a result of the 1981 review of the System).”
This has since reduced to five standing notices.
They are: DA-Notice 01: Military Operations, Plans and Capabilities; DA-Notice 02: Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapons and Equipment; DA-Notice 03: Ciphers and Secure Communications; DA-Notice 04: Sensitive Installations and Home Addresses; and DA-Notice 05: United Kingdom Security and Intelligence Services and Special Services.