Monday, 8 March 2010

MoD Accused of Ordering a "Truth Blackout" During Election Campaign

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.


CrazyDaisy said...


The truth will finally out, Labour are finished now with the Armed Forces. To betray us is an extremely foolish thing to do, we were weeks away from overthrowing the last Labour Govt, it can be done again........if we're forced, read your history cyclops!

Constantly Furious said...

Aye, SR, blogged this too this morning. Trying to get a Twitter tag = #silencedArmy - going as well.

As a commenter said, this is is a New Low for New Labour...

banned said...

CrazyDaiy, see "A Very British Coup" starring Ray McAnally, © Channel 4.

Nick Gurr is clearly a fool, one of those who uses 1984 as an instruction manual rather than as a warning.
Meanwhile it is heartening to read
The Independent going off message with Bruce Anderson saying
"Lying to Parliament used to be regarded as just about the gravest offence that a politician could commit. But there is a worse one: lying to or about the armed forces."

Quite so.

John said...

I do have some belief re parents etc being manipulated - - it would be unusual if the opportunity were missed.
The other thing that opens my nostrils a bit is what appears in obits. The same phrases appear and I wonder if CO have a MOD directive as to what to say - refer to blog re Fatalities suggests there are controls.
I do not know what scope there might be in a concerted campaign to use Govt petitions route and FoI actions. The news that does appear needs to be Google cached to circumvent MOD censorship with location of mirrors widely distributed. We most certainly must not accept this sort of 3rd Reich treatment. That didn't last a 1000 years - this should not last 1000 seconds

brownlie said...


It is difficult to comment on this without swearing. As the death count gets higher and higher so these people plumb the depths without a thought for the servicemen and their families. Yet the sheep still maintain that they will still vote for this revolting party.

Jess The Dog said...

This is a shocking abuse of the 'purdah' principle to bury bad news.

It will backfire as shown by the leaking of the memo.

Tragically, casualties this year are likely to be far higher than even 2009, if the current rate continues. Most of the losses aren't even in the major offensive operation elsewhere in Helmand....they're in Sangin and nearby.

Anonymous said...

It is up to us bloggers to make sure that the "min" tribute rule is completely ignored.

I have somewhere and will post on your blog, with your permission SR, when I find it, a web site with links to many European newpapers' english language editions, and I will look at french language newspapers and blog on anything I see there.

These muppets need to understand that the days of keeping stuff quiet is well and truly over, and the least we can do is to ensure that these men are paid a proper tribute.

How dare the filthy low scum bucket do this!

subrosa said...

Aye CD, it's a disgrace. Time you did overthrow the whole pile of them. Would only take you 10 minutes.

subrosa said...

The memos are a disgrace to our military CF. I'll check you out on Twitter and give a hand.

subrosa said...

Yes banned, Bruce Anderson's article was excellent.

subrosa said...

Rose is one of the very few who has spoken out John. I too feel others are told 'don't speak out, you'll just upset the ones who are still fighting' or some such nonsense.

subrosa said...

Brownlie, there are so many who aren't interested in these wars because they don't see them as having anything to do with them. That's labour voters for you.

subrosa said...

I'm sure you, like me, would think memos like these have never been sent before Jess. I can't remember ever having heard of the likes before.

subrosa said...

Tris, that would be great. I read German papers but my other languages are pathetic really.

Would appreciate the link.

Mrs Rigby said...

I wrote about this earlier today, including mentioning Bruce Anderson's article, and have just written something else.

I doubt many will visit my place who haven't already read your blog, but I've added a link to my last piece to help 'get the word out' because, well, you never know.

I don't think I've been so angry for a long time.

subrosa said...

Mrs Rigby, next time I write about the military I will do my best to remember to link to your posts.

Surreptitious Evil said...

"Min" here, I think is "Minister" rather than "minimum"?

subrosa said...

Naw I think it's minimum Evil. Ministers seldom comment on fatalities except the false grief they show at PMQs. It's to say the MoD announcement should be kept to a minimum I think.

Always willing to be proved wrong though...

Surreptitious Evil said...

If you look at the MoD announcements, you'll find that the last tribute is almost always from Ainsworth.

From the press release regarding Rifleman Maughan, as the most recent example:

'Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said:

"I was sorry to hear of the loss of Rifleman Liam Maughan.I understand that he was a calm and professional soldier who was a great asset to the Army.

"My condolences go out to his family and friends as they come to terms with their loss." '

It's hardly proof (pace the discussion with Billy on the other thread), just a different interpretation. We may both be wrong!

Anonymous said...

My mum has the link SR... I'll get it and email it to you

muddypaws said...

My initial reaction to this story when I first heard about it was disbelief.
Quite literally because it occurred to me to pass the story on...but I thought "no, this needs to be checked".

Of course it didn't take long for the report to "go viral". That it was confirmed as true, my feelings were torn between anger and despair. However.

If the politicians insist on going ahead with this period of purdah for the armed forces and the embedded journalists who are "in theatre" with them, then I have this suggestion to make:

Can we please, during the run up to the election, have a ban on all non factual reporting from politicians embedded in our news media, and a similar ban on journalists/media and PR types embedded in our political parties?

subrosa said...

Tris that would be great. Thanks a lot.

subrosa said...

Muddypaws, I've sighted the memos and know they're genuine.

I would certainly have no complaint about your suggestion regarding politicians though.

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