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Concept.png DSMA-Notice 
(censorship,  Defence Instruction and Notice,  News blackout)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
An official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security, a system of censorship in use in the UK.

A DSMA-Notice (formerly DA- or Defence Advisory Notice from 1993-2015, or a D- Defence Notice pre- 1993) is an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of "national security".

On 11 June 2019, journalist Matt Kennard tweeted:

"Guardian's deputy editor @paul__johnson joined state censorship D-Notice committee (run by MOD) after Edward Snowden revelations in sop to British spooks. In board minutes, they thank him for being "instrumental in re-establishing links" between UK mil/intel and Guardian. Explains a lot."[1]

Official Narrative

The DA-Notice system is not a form of censorship since "by definition a voluntary system cannot be censorship. DSMA-Notices are guidance for the media in self-regulation. Publication is still a matter of judgement for editors who are well used to regulating content on a wide range of matters, including when e.g. harm to individuals, financial loss or an offence to public taste may result."[2]


Since DSMA-Notices are almost universally accepted[citation needed] by the UK commercially-controlled media, they do constitute de facto censorship.


The original D-Notice system was introduced in 1912.

In 1971 all existing D-Notices were cancelled and replaced by standing D-Notices that gave general guidance on what could be published and what could not, and what would require further advice from the secretary of the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC). In 1993 the notices were renamed DA-Notices.

As of 2008, there are five standing DA-Notices: [3]

  • DA-Notice 01: Military Operations, Plans & Capabilities
  • DA-Notice 02: Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapons and Equipment
  • DA-Notice 03: Ciphers and Secure Communications
  • DA-Notice 04: Sensitive Installations and Home Addresses
  • DA-Notice 05: United Kingdom Security & Intelligence Special Services

D-Notice book

In October 2008 The Times reported that a book titled "Secrecy and the Media" and written by Rear-Admiral Nick Wilkinson, secretary of the DA Committee from 1999 to 2004, and covering the history of the Committee right up until his retirement was due to be published in May 2009. However the book - having been cleared by the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6), GCHQ, and the Foreign, Home and Cabinet Offices - ran into trouble when it hit the MoD.

Specifically, according to The Times, the book was harshly criticised by Wilkinson's successor at the DA Committee, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance. (The secretary of the committee is normally a retired senior military officer.) Vallance apparently argued that the book should be binned, not for spilling state secrets, but because it was "turgid" and poorly written. In the event, all post 1997 material was omitted.[4]

In January 2014, The Guardian reported that, following stories about mass surveillance by the security services based on leaks from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, Jon Thompson, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, was setting up an inquiry into the future of the DA Committee, raising fears that the voluntary censorship system could be made compulsory.[5]

On 31 July 2015, The Guardian reported the result of the review: an almost identical system but a change of name: DA-notices become DSMA (Defence and Security Media Advisory) Notices. Nothing, it seems, works quite so well as a British fudge that allows the press to keep its freedom while volunteering to protect national security. (This article was amended on 4 August 2015 to make clear that The Guardian did not consult the DA-Notice secretary before publishing the first of its Snowden leaks, but did for all subsequent stories.)[6]


On 8 April 2009 the Government issued a DA-Notice in relation to "counter-terrorism" documents photographed when Assistant-Commissioner Bob Quick arrived at Downing Street for talks about current intelligence [7] Records of a Meeting held on 19 June 2007 [8] state that "a total of 161 enquiries had been received." On UK Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan "13 requests for DA Notice advice had been received. Most of these had been concerned with equipment." There had been a marked increase in enquiries for advice on publishing aerial and satellite photography during the last 7 months. Some of the requests are rather obscure: "The Secretary reported that he had received several enquiries related to the Baker Street bank robbery of 1971. A film called ‘The Bank Job’, due for release next year, was likely to be followed by one or more documentaries on the robbery, a central theme of which was expected to be a ‘cover-up’ through the alleged issuing of a ‘D-Notice’." The Committee are seeking to promote a better understanding of the DA Notice System: "The main target audiences were the armed forces headquarters, official committees, media management and media schools of journalism. Briefings had been given to a group of London-based International Correspondents, the Media Emergency Forum, Goldsmith’s College, University of London, the BBC New [sic] Editorial Board and University College Falmouth." On 25 November 2010, the Government issued a DA-Notice in relation to sensitive documents expected to be imminently released on the website Wikileaks [9].

Skripal affair

Full article: Skripal affair

In March 2018, the UK government issued at least 2 D-notices to try to protect the names of Sergei Skripal's contact (most particularly his handler, Pablo Miller). These were followed by the commercially-controlled media, but were less effective online after Craig Murray mentioned that the D-notices had been issued to try to blocking Miller's name. Both of these notices were published on 9 May 2018 at Powerbase, with a minor redaction.[10]


A voluntary system of D-Notices was also used in Australia starting in 1952 during the Cold War and were issued by the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Committee. At the first meeting of the Committee, eight D-Notices were issued covering atomic tests in Australia, aspects of naval shipbuilding, official ciphering, the number and deployment of Centurion tanks, troop movements in the Korean War, weapons and equipment information not officially released, aspects of air defence and certain aerial photographs.[11]

In 1974 the number of D-Notices was reduced to four, covering:[11]

  1. Technical information regarding navy, army and air force weapons, weapons systems, equipment and communications systems;
  2. Air operational capability and air defences;
  3. Whereabouts of Vladimir Petrov; and
  4. Ciphering and monitoring activities.

A fifth D-Notice relating to the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) was issued in 1977.[11]

In 1982 D-Notices were again revised to four. [12]

  • D Notice 1: Capabilities of the Australian Defence Force, Including Aircraft, Ships, Weapons, and Other Equipment;
  • D Notice 2: Whereabouts of Mr and Mrs Vladimir Petrov;
  • D Notice 3: Signals Intelligence and Communications Security; and
  • D Notice 4: Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).

The Defence, Press and Broadcasting Committee has not met since 1982 although the D-Notice system remains the administrative responsibility of the Minister for Defence.[11]

The D-Notice system fell out of common use at the end of the Cold War but remained in force. The 1995 Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Secret Intelligence Service reported that newspapers confessed ignorance that the D-Notice system was still operating when it was drawn to their attention in 1993 and 1994.[13]

External links


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Probable Western Responsibility for Skripal Poisoningblog post28 April 2018Craig Murray
Clive Ponting
Those of us who have been in the belly of the beast and have worked closely with the intelligence services, really do know what they and the British government are capable of. They are not “white knights”.
Document:The D Noticearticle3 August 2010Moyra Grant
Document:Where They Tell You Not to Lookblog post30 April 2018Craig MurrayCraig Murray's rule number one of real investigative journalism: 1. Look Where They Tell You Not to Look
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  1. "Guardian's @paul__johnson joins D-Notice committee"
  2. http://dsma.uk/frequently-asked-questions/
  3. "Details of the UK D-Notice system from dnotice.org.uk"
  4. "Book about D-Notices gets D-Notice slapped on it"
  5. "D-notice system to be reviewed in wake of Edward Snowden revelations"
  6. "The D-notice system: a typically British fudge that has survived a century"
  7. "Police chief Bob Quick steps down over terror blunder"
  8. 'Records of the past DPBAC meetings', dnotice.org.uk, accessed 15 April, 2009.
  9. 'That Wikileaks D Notice' - Guido Fawkes Blog 26 November 2010
  10. http://powerbase.info/index.php/DSMA_notice_7_March_2018
  11. a b c d The D-Notice System - Pauline Sadler - Australian Press Council News May 2000
  12. Fact sheet 49 – D Notices - National Archives of Australia
  13. ISBN 0644432012 Report on the Australian Secret Intelligence Service - Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Secret Intelligence Service - Gordon J. Samuels and Michael H. Codd 1995 pages=114–115