Nick Gurr, the MoD's director of media and communications, says 'embeds' for all British news broadcasters and national journalists will be prohibited during the election campaign, expected to begin later this month.
Mr Gurr's memo, written last week, is entitled "Purdah (the period generally known to be between an election being called and taking place)* - Key Principles for Defence Communicators." It details a string of steps the MoD is taking to minimise the chance of embarrassing disclosures. Information on MoD and armed forces websites, it says, must be 'cleansed.' Official blogs and website must 'report factual information only.' Even internal MoD and service journals must be 'submitted for approval before publication' with 'controversial issues avoided' because 'these get into the public domain'. Another order is that 'Any activity that can be delayed should be.'
The most distressing section of Mr Gurr's email, for me, is, 'Fatalities: Can put in public domain as now with Min (minimum I assume) quote paying tribute to the individual.
Another communication sent to military personnel states 'As xxx's minute makes clear this will require careful handling in order to avoid doing anything which could be perceived as political, and to avoid competing with the election for public attention... Once the election has been called I will cascade the formal purdah guidance which will be issued by the Cabinet Office.'
An MoD spokesman said: "The MoD recognises that it is vital to continue to tell the public about the efforts and achievements of our forces in Afghanistan during this period and has agreed principles with the Cabinet Office that allow this."
Cdr John Muxworthy, chief executive of the UK National Defence Association said: "To put a situation in place where the press is effectively to be gagged, so it is not going to be possible for people to see the real news from the front line, is incredible.
"Afghanistan is not a political issued - it's a matter of national importance."
Col Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said : "It is wrong to gag the media, which is what this is. This is a critical campaign and the public have a right to be told what is happening. It is also wrong to prevent senior officers speaking."
Dirty tricks? Oh indeed and as the evidence shows the instructions come straight from the Cabinet Office. We know who's the head of that. We also know labour would use dirty tricks but to stoop to the level of gagging the media when we have nearly 10,000 troops half way round the world fighting a war, is despicable.
This is a must read. It's an article on how much Gordon Brown holds the military in contempt. Please do read it even although you disagree. Let me give you just one sentence from Bruce Anderson's article. 'Mr Brown is guilty of corporate manslaughter.' I doubt if too many service families would disagree but they are in a minority which tends to stay silent. They are expected not to cause waves and most follow orders. Fortunately we have the likes of Rose Gentle who won't be silenced. Few others have stepped forward and I can understand their pain. It must be compounded by the fact that Gordon Brown and those MPs who voted for the war in Iraq were too busy with the housing and benefits of their latest electorate than their own troubles. I can understand, when they received a letter from their political representative expressing their regret at their child's demise why they never responded.
Thankfully Gordon Brown is unable to ban foreign and local journalists so news will be available so for those of us who aren't fluent in European languages, may European websites do have translation facilities.
Fitaloon has also posted on the subject with links to Michael Yon and his Facebook and Twitter feeds.
* My input.