This Is London / The Guardian – 2007-08-13 23:20:44
(August 8, 2007) — The Ministry of Defence has introduced new guidelines to prevent military personnel talking about their experiences as members of the Armed Forces.
Soldiers, sailors and air force members will be prevented from blogging, taking part in surveys, speaking in public or posting on bulletin boards, according to The Guardian.
They will also be barred from playing multi-player computer games and sending text messages, photographs and audio or video material without permission if they relate to defence matters.
The guidelines say “all such communication must help to maintain and, where possible, enhance the reputation of defence”, the paper reported.
They come after the row earlier this year about two members of the Royal Navy selling their stories to the media after being held captive in Iran.
Receiving money for interviews, conferences and books which draw on official defence experience has now been banned.
The rules apparently also apply to Territorial Army members and cadets when they are on duty, as well as to civil servants working for the MoD.
Simon McDowell, the MoD’s director general of media communications, told the Guardian: “We are trying to give straightforward, clear guidance that is up to date.
“The existing regulations were confusing and didn’t include things like accepting payment. It applies to communicating about defence matters, not personal things. Particular things can impact on operational security; information which somebody can get a hold of.”
But they have provoked condemnation from service personnel, some of whom immediately turned to online forums to talk about their incredulity and confusion about the clampdown.
One, named ViroBono, quoted the title of the MoD’s update on “rules on communicating with the public and the media” before writing: “Surely ‘NOT communicating’, since this is the clear intent.
“Clearly they have realised that the veracity of everything Ministers say, and MoD’s own media people put out, is doubted, and have decided that rather than cleaning up their own act, they’ll try to shift the responsibility.”
A spokeswoman for the MoD said that the rules were not new, but had just been updated to include details about receiving payment from the media and about the internet.
She said: “These are not new rules. These or similar have been around for at least a decade. They have been updated to reflect the findings of the Hall report (payment and authorisation of media contacts) and changes in communications technology (eg: the growth of the web).
“Most public and private organisations of any size – in the UK and elsewhere – have rules on the authorisation processes to be followed before people speak publicly or to the media.
“They are not unique to MoD. We want our people to speak about what they do, but they must be properly authorised.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.