About me
Archive
About me

Debunking the D-Notice meme

close

Warning: This post was published more than 5 years ago.

I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might have changed in the 5 years since I wrote this post.
  • This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.

Many thanks for your understanding.

On Saturday, a rally was held in London against the Health and Social Care Bill. Tweets have suggested that this peaceful rally was somewhat over-policed, with armed riot police in attendance and protesters being kettled. There’s some coverage on Indymedia, but little coverage by the mainstream media.

There’s a Twitter meme stating that the reason for the lack of mainstream media coverage is because a “D-Notice” has been issued by the Government to prevent reporting. This meme appears to stem from Dr No’s blog.

I should state clearly at this point that I have no inside information about what the defence services have or haven’t done, and no inside information about the media. I’m neither a professional journalist nor a signatory to the Official Secrets Act. However, the idea that a D-Notice was issued to cover up a protest by a couple of hundred people about a Government bill seems utter crap.

D-Notices, which have been called DA-Notices since 1993, are controlled by the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC): they are not under the direct control of government. There are five government representatives on this committee, and 16 members of the media, nominated by bodies like the Press Association, Google, the BBC, and ITV. So for us to believe that a DA-Notice was used to cover up a protest, we must also believe that 16 members of the media – or, I guess, at least six members of the media to carry a majority on the committee – felt that this was appropriate action. Also, since DA-Notices are merely advisory, it must also be the case that not one journalist chose to break rank and shout to all and sundry about the most audacious UK government cover-up of a peaceful protest in history.

DA-Notices are very seldom used. Often, the existence of the DA-Notice itself is reported – these aren’t super injunctions. Back in 2009, the existence of a DA-Notice was extensively reported after Bob Quick accidentally flashed sensitive information to photographers when arriving at Downing Street. The photos were printed in many newspapers and shown extensively on news programmes, with the offending information blurred out and the DA-Notice cited as the reason. There was also discussion around DA-Notices and Wikileaks. So we must also believe that not only have media representatives voted for a DA-Notice to be implemented, but that journalists have also spontaneously agreed not to discuss the very existence of a surely controversial notice.

DA-Notices are so seldom used that in possibly the biggest temporary media blackout of recent years – when Prince Harry served in Afghanistan – a DA-Notice wasn’t issued, but merely a gentleman’s agreement by the press attempted (unsuccessfully) to ensure that the news wasn’t leaked in advance.

There are five standing types of DA-Notice, which relate to: the military; nuclear facilities; secure communications; sensitive installations; and security and intelligence services. I wonder which type of DA-Notice Dr No believes this protest falls under?

A quick Google search reveals that, in addition to Saturday’s relatively small NHS protest, a rally against climate change, an anti-workfare protest, a protest against the Assad regime in Syria, a protest against stop-and-search, and an anti-fur demo all took place in London on Saturday. I’m sure all feel that their protests were under-reported in the mainstream media.

Perhaps the media agreed to the issue of DA-Notices against all of these protests this weekend. Or perhaps it was felt that none of these protests was particularly newsworthy. Perhaps the protests were felt to be a little predictable – a restatement of a known position, rather than anything new. And I’d imagine that there were many complaints about perceived poor policing over the weekend, given the level of complaint against the police on any given day. Each incident in itself is unlikely to be newsworthy.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps there has been a cover-up and a media blackout about this protest. But that’s an extraordinary claim and, like Carl Sagan, it’ll take extraordinary evidence to convince me. Until that’s available, perhaps protestors should stick to the facts.

This 1,572nd post was filed under: Health, Media, News and Comment, Politics.






More posts worth reading

What I’ve been reading this month (published 7th May 2017)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 3rd April 2017)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 4th March 2017)

Swing Update (published 30th April 2005)

News organisations are wrong about A&E waiting times (published 23rd January 2015)

Holding a Mirror to political leanings (published 21st March 2008)

Photo-a-day 354: Synergi (published 20th December 2012)


Comments and responses

Comment from Julie


by Julie

Comment posted at 15:11 on 19th March 2012.

Hi Simon,

The fuss about the NHS demo was that there was armed police at it, and riot police as well. I wouldn’t be so sceptical about the application of a D notice in this case. See Latent Existence for info and pictures on this.

http://www.latentexistence.me.uk/heavy-handed-police-threaten-nhs-protest/


Comment from Julie


by Julie

Comment posted at 15:34 on 19th March 2012.

Also, on the day that the Health and Social Care Bill gets its third reading in the Lords, there is no report on this whatsoever on the BBC Health page and all health articles have been comment disabled. I’m going for conspiracy myself..


Comment from Gez Winstanley


by Gez Winstanley

Comment posted at 18:32 on 19th March 2012.

I really don’t know about the DA Notice and really hope it isn’t true, as that would be very sinister, even if some parties involved were convinced by “public safety” arguments (personally I would feel that the Bill itself is a much bigger theat to public safety than any protests).

Suppressing informed debate on this issue would, however, be in line with the Government’s actions on this bill to date, from lying about their intentions in the general election to disobeying Information Commissioner orders to publish the Risk Register.

No one seems to be disputing the arrivial of armed police at the central London protest, nor that they left their vans and were seen by the crowds to be carrying automatic weapons. However, it is claimed that they were from a diplomatic protection unit and got involved with the protest “by accident”.

I would argue that the arrival of armed police at a peaceful protest involving respected “pillars of the community” types such as doctors and nurses, when the demo is about a highly controversial bill that will touch the lives the everyone in the country, and two days before a critical vote on said bill, is highly newsworthy, especially when similar actions were held across the country on the same weekend. The lack of coverage in the mainstream media does seem to imply at least a “passive” conspiracy of silence.

Some links to stories about these other protests are below:


Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)


by sjhoward

Comment posted at 21:34 on 19th March 2012.

Hi Julie,

Thanks for your comments!

I have no doubt that the government machine will have put pressure on media outlets re: the health and social care bill. But it’s a very big leap from pressure being applied to editors agreeing to a DA notice.

I’m afraid I’m just not convinced of the “conspiracy” argument!


Comment from Julie


by Julie

Comment posted at 22:29 on 19th March 2012.

Something similar to this happened in 2007, Simon. 10 000+ junior doctors, including the Queen’s surgeons, marched on Parliament. There was some tv coverage on the midday bulletins and then it just disappeared from view. It was not the first item on any news programme and the next day it was as if it had never happened. It was said at that time that a DA notice had been issued. There are huge commercial interests in what’s happening with the Health and Social Care Bill and I think it’s quite possible that this has been done. If you had seen that picture of the policeman strolling about with a machine gun on the tv, think what your reaction would have been. This is Britain; we don’t do guns and this is totally un-British and totally against our culture. It’s a complete departure and marks a new and disturbing chapter in government.


Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)


by sjhoward

Comment posted at 09:57 on 20th March 2012.

I assume you’re referring to this protest in 2007. Hence, you’re trying to convince me that a protest covered by the same level of media agreement as the current sites of nuclear weapons in the UK can be found in a simple Google search.

I don’t disagree that the protest was over-policed. My reaction to seeing a policeman strolling about with a machine gun at a peaceful protest would have been shock, just as it was when I saw, on television, armed police at peaceful student protests and peaceful Occupy protests. I, like you, think this is inappropriate. But it it’s far from unique to this protest.

I also think that the media coverage of the Health and Social Care Bill as a whole has been shocking. I’ve seen no coverage of the many vigils which took place last night across the country last night, but don’t assume that editors have agreed to a Defence Advisory Notice restricting coverage.

The idea that journalists, at home and internationally, have agreed to issue a Defence Advisory Notice without so much as a mention to their readers strikes me as absurd. It’s certainly unprecedented. Remember that editors couldn’t even agree on a DA-Notice when Prince Harry served in Afghanistan, when release of the information would have been a clear and present danger to our armed forces.

There are many vested interests around the Health and Social Care Bill – on both sides of the argument, of course. But I struggle to see, for example, why the Scott Trust would choose not to report the biggest coverup and most inappropriate use of defence protocols in years. Remember that DA-Notices are merely advisory, so even if one was issued, there is nothing to stop individual editors not complying.

I have absolutely no doubt that the Government will have brought pressure to bear on the media to stifle reporting of these events. But there are much, much better ways of doing this than a DA-Notice. I can absolutely see why a media outlet might choose the promise a future exclusive “leaked” story over reporting what might be seen as “yet another” NHS protest, for example. But I can’t for the life of me see why they would choose to agree between themselves not to cover a story on the clearly false pretence of it presenting a threat to national security.

Even if some newspapers have vested interests in the HSC Bill, I see no reason why all would agree.


Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)


by sjhoward

Comment posted at 08:15 on 21st March 2012.

Hi Gez,

Just wanted to apologise for it taking so long for your comment to appear – it somehow got sucked into the Akismet spam filter, which I think has also stripped out your links. Sorry about that!


Comment from Julie


by Julie

Comment posted at 16:20 on 21st March 2012.

Well, it’s mibbees aye and mibbees naw, sj. With regard to use and abuse of laws, don’t forget that Walter Wolfgang was held under Section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act for shouting ‘nonsense’ and ‘that’s a lie’ at the Labour conference. Laws can creep. But whether it was a D notice or something else, the media was most definitely blacked out over the weekend on this bill and the level of policing at the Saturday march was way way over the top. There must have been a riot policeman for every protestor there. It is disturbing, and given the massive implications of the bill, the coverage has been unbelievably bad. I think it’s the end of the NHS as we know it; so do many others, and it’s passed with barely a whimper from the press.


Compose a new comment



Comment

You may use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> .

If you would like to display a profile picture beside your comment, sign up for Gravatar, and enter your email address above.

By submitting your comment, you confirm that it conforms to the site's comment policy. Comments are subject to both automatic and human moderation, and may take some time to appear.



The content of this site is copyright protected by a Creative Commons License, with some rights reserved. All trademarks, images and logos remain the property of their respective owners. The accuracy of information on this site is in no way guaranteed. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. No responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information provided by this site. This site uses cookies - click here for more information.