EDITORIAL: This war needs a cloak of secrecy

Any civilian PRO who has attempted to keep a story out of the media

will be well aware how bitterly journalists resent attempts at news

management. This resentment can only be amplified as journalists come

under pressure to produce an unprecedented quantity of copy and footage

on one of the biggest stories of the past few decades.

In the 21st century, the public expect wars to be fought in the media as

well as on the ground. But as both the UK and US administrations have

been at pains to point out, the upcoming conflict will be a war unlike

any other. While during the Gulf War the Western allies used all the

technology at their disposal to play to the gallery, this campaign

requires a cloak of secrecy if it is to succeed.

Here in the UK, even before a shot has been fired, the D-Notice

Committee - the advisory group that alerts news organisations to

information whose publication threatens national security - has asked

the media not to speculate as to tactics, lest their theories stray too

close to the truth.

Committee secretary Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson admits he has no power

to compel the media to comply. And while much of the media has taken a

responsible line, some have been unable to resist detailed speculation

as to likely military strategies.

The onus is on the Government to make clear that ignoring this

particular attempt to manage the news agenda may cost lives.

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