National security, secrecy and the media – a British view

Government Secrecy

ISBN: 978-0-85724-389-8, eISBN: 978-0-85724-390-4

ISSN: 0196-1152

Publication date: 26 January 2011


This chapter focuses on how the United Kingdom, historically and contemporarily, has generally resolved the dichotomy between the conflicting public interest principles of media freedom to publish and governmental duty to protect, in the field of national security. The fundamental principles common to all democracies are discussed, the history of UK government/media interaction described, two detailed recent case studies are used of the UK's system of officially informed but voluntary self-censorship (during Afghanistan 1 and Iraq 2), and lessons on government/media balance are drawn. In today's high-speed international communications environment, it is no longer feasible for governments to suppress information widely in the public domain electronically and in other countries. Governments therefore achieve better protection of necessarily secret national and allied security information at source by not attempting to suppress publication of other security information seen by large numbers of insiders as being of low security importance.



Wilkinson, N. (2011), "National security, secrecy and the media – a British view", Maret, S. (Ed.) Government Secrecy (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 131-151.

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