Secrecy and the Media is the first book to examine the development of the D-Notice system, which regulates the UK media's publication of British national security secrets. It is based on official documents, many of which have not previously been available to a general audience, as well as on media sources.
From Victorian times, British governments have consistently seen the need, in the public interest, to prevent the media publishing secret information which would endanger national security. The UK media have meanwhile continuously resisted official attempts to impose any form of censorship, arguing that a free press is in the public interest. Both sides have normally seen the pitfalls of attempting to resolve this sometimes acrimonious conflict of interests by litigation, and have together evolved a system of editorial self-regulation, assisted by day-to-day independent expert advice, known colloquially as the D-Notice System.
The book traces the development of this system from nineteenth-century colonial campaigns, through two world wars, to modern operations and counter-terrorism in the post-Cold War era, up to the beginning of the Labour government in 1997. Examples are drawn from media, political and official sources (some not yet open), and cover not only defence issues (including Special Forces), but also the activities of the secret intelligence services MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. These cases relate principally to the UK, but also to American and other alliesa (TM) interests.
The story of how this sometimes controversial institution now operates in the modern world will be essential reading for those in the media and government departments, and for academics and students in the fields of security, defence and intelligence, as well as being an accessible exposA(c) for the general reader.
Nicholas Wilkinson served in the Royal Navy 1959-98, and from 1999 to 2004 he ran the independent Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee. He was a Press Complaints Commissioner from 2005 to 2008, and is a Cabinet Office Historian.
'An important and absorbing book, surprisingly amusing at times for an official history. Admiral Wilkinson charts the troubled history of the D-Notice system, that great British compromise between national security and freedom of the press, and shows how it has been tested almost to destruction in peace and war over the past century, yet somehow survived. The D-Notice system is much misunderstood, even by journalists: this book will dispel many myths and provide an indispensable reference point for future debates.' Donald Trelford, former Editor of The Observer, Emeritus Professor in Journalism Studies at Sheffield University 'This book is a 'must'-read for all journalists, espionage writers and other aficionados of the intelligence scene, historians and citizens who cherish the right to know, within the bounds of reasonable security, what is being secretly perpetrated in their name.' H. Chapman Pincher, journalist, author 'Nick Wilkinson has done us all an enormous service and at a crucial moment in history. Like all great stories, this one is fascinating, packed with information and facts, and brilliantly tells us about the struggles between Whitehall and the media. This is not just history for historians but a must for anyone who cares about our freedoms and how they are protected.' Andre Singer, Adjunct Research Professor of Anthropology, University of Southern California 'In an open society there inevitably lies a fault-line where the guardians of national security meet the tribunes of a free press. Nick Wilkinson lived on top of that fault-line for years. It's called the D-Notice System and, in this remarkable book, he takes us deep into that fissure and mines some real gems which illuminate the hidden history of British Government and the Media.' Peter Hennessy, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London 'Thoroughly researched!surprisingly readable and packed with intriguing snippets' - James Delingpole, The Mail on Sunday '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.' - Richard Norton-Taylor, the Guardian