Defence Sec launches independent review into MOD media “blacklisting” claims

Posted on: September 24, 2020 by Claire Meadows

An independent review will take place into claims earlier this month that a UK foreign and military news outlet had been blacklisted by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Defence Secretary has this week confirmed.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP said that he was “deeply concerned” that standards were alleged to have not been met following reports that an MOD press officer had refused to engage with Declassified UK.

The Society of Editors (SoE) had written to Wallace following the censorship concerns and the issuing of a level-two press freedom alert against the UK government by the Council of Europe. The Society had sought clarification that it was not the official policy of the MOD to single out UK news organisations for favourable or unfavourable treatment.

Speaking in the Commons, Wallace confirmed that an independent review would take place into the allegations and that it was the policy of the MOD to treat all media outlets with fairness and impartiality.

He said: ““All Government media and communication professionals must abide by the Government Communication Service’s propriety guidance and the civil service code. The Ministry of Defence is no different.

“However, I have been deeply concerned that those standards are alleged not always to have been met in the Department. I am treating the allegation with the utmost seriousness. The Ministry of Defence I lead will treat outlets with fairness and impartiality.

“I am today writing to Defence communicators across the MOD and all services to emphasise that point. I have therefore asked former director general and communications professional Tom Kelly to lead an independent review to look into the allegations that have been made and establish what underlies them. I will report back to the House once the review has been concluded.”

Lawyers acting on behalf of Declassified UK also confirmed this week that the outlet had since received an apology from the Ministry over the incident.

Mike Baker, the MoD chief operating officer said in a letter to lawyers Leigh Day that the incident should not have taken place.

He said: “The Directorate of Defence Communications was wrong not to provide a comment to Mr Miller of Declassified Media Limited on the story about which he was enquiring.”

Mr Baker explained that a review would be held into allegations that “the standards of the Civil Service Code and Government Communication Service Propriety Guidance have not always been met in the department, and to establish what underlies them”.

At the time of writing the Society had not yet received a reply from Wallace to its letter.