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UK News Editors 'Rarely' Breach Official Censorship - Advisory Committee

© REUTERS / Luke MacGregorRed traffic lights stop traffic in front of the Big Ben bell tower at the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain February 22, 2016.
Red traffic lights stop traffic in front of the Big Ben bell tower at the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain February 22, 2016. - Sputnik International
Infringements of the UK’s Defense and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) code – a system of media censorship that the British Government has operated for almost one hundred years – are "rare" and "in the main inadvertent," the secretary of DSMA committee told Sputnik on Thursday.

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EDINBURGH (Sputnik) — On Wednesday, the DSMA committee issued a notice to editors to "remind" them not to reveal any information that would identify former or current members of the UK intelligence community or special forces.

"Infringements of the DSMA code, and before that the DA (Defense Advisory) Notice and D Notice codes, are rare but do happen, albeit in the main inadvertently. It is part of the DSMA compact between Government and the [UK] national media that DSMA advice should be sought on issues which fall within the guidelines of one or more of the DSMA Notices," Air Vice Marshall Andrew Vallance said. "Only then will an editor be aware of where the true and complete public interest lies."

The DSMA committee is chaired by Peter Watkins, the Director General of Security Policy at the Ministry of Defense. The committee routinely issues "advice" to all UK media, including book publishers, on content that may be regarded by the Committee as a potential threat to UK national security interests. The Secretariat of the DSMA are comprised entirely of senior military officers.

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Explaining how the process operates in practice Vallance told Sputnik News that "if a breach occurs – as it does from time to time – I will normally contact the journalist and/or editor concerned and brief them on the consequences of their disclosure for national and personal security, the object being that they appreciate the potential consequences of such a breach and will ensure they comply with the code in the future."

Vallance declined to say what prompted yesterday’s notice to editors but made reference to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and his initial disclosures published in The Guardian newspaper in 2014.

Vallance stated that following publication of the Snowden revelations detailing the mass surveillance of the public by US and UK intelligence services The Guardian’s editors were persuaded that it was in their own as well as the public's interest "to work with us before making future disclosures."

"The process culminated with the Deputy Editor of The Guardian — Paul Johnson — joining the then DPBAC (now DSMA Committee) as a member of the Media Side," Vallance said.

In 2013, Edward Snowden started revealing classified documents, disclosing the mass surveillance of personal data by Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) together with the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States.

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