The Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) Committee
oversees a voluntary code which operates between the UK Government
departments which have responsibilities for national security and the
media. It uses the Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA)-Notice
System as its vehicle. The objective of the DSMA-Notice System is to
prevent inadvertent public disclosure of information that would
compromise UK military and intelligence operations and methods, or put
at risk the safety of those involved in such operations, or lead to
attacks that would damage the critical national infrastructure and/or
endanger lives. For details about the various aspects of the system
please use the links below.
Although not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act of 2002, the DSMA Committee is committed to practising a policy of maximum disclosure of its activities consistent with the effective conduct of business and the need to ensure that it honours any assurance of confidentiality given to the individuals and organisations with which it deals.
The extent of the public availability and accessibility of specific, potentially sensitive, information is a factor of key importance in the operation of the Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) Notice System. It is fundamental when providing advice to the UK media on whether the repeating of certain information could inadvertently damage national security. Rapid developments in worldwide information collection, storage and dissemination, particularly those related to the internet, have brought about major changes in the public availability and accessibility of all types of information. They have also raised the possibility of very different interpretations of the term ‘widely available’. At one extreme, information may be obtained from a very wide variety of sources, each of which is easily accessible to the general public. At the other, while information may exist somewhere on the internet, it may be limited to a single source and be capable of being found only after prodigious effort and ingenuity. Between these two extremes, a range of potentially valid interpretations of ‘widely available’ exists.
In clarifying what it understands by this term, the DSMA Committee has decided that DSMA Notice advice will take into account prior publication or broadcast by major newspapers, broadcast networks and high-profile magazines, prior distribution by internationally networked news, picture and television agencies, and prominence on major internet search engines or widely-used webcast channels. When providing DSMA Notice advice, it will continue to be for the Committee’s Secretary to apply this understanding in each case in which some form of prior publication or broadcast is involved.
The DSMA Committee fully recognises that world-wide information collection, storage and dissemination are continuing to evolve rapidly. In cases where the rebroadcast or republication of certain information could inadvertently damage national security, the DSMA Committee is committed to ensuring that the advice it provides to the UK media continues to be in harmony with changing realities.