The Ministry of Defence has revised communication guidelines in what appears to be an attempt to restrict the nature of blog and forum postings from its personnel. The regulations seem designed to stop criticism of the armed forces from within. They state that posts "must help to maintain and, where possible, enhance the reputation of defence".
The regulations apply at any time, and cover "all public speaking, writing or other communications, including via the internet and other sharing technologies". The ban even extends to cadets and the volunteer Territorial Army.
The Telegraph reports the reaction of one visitor to the unofficial forces website arrse.co.uk: "If [the MoD] did things properly [employees] wouldn't feel the need to bring things into the public arena quite so often, and they wouldn't need to spend so much time covering up?"
However, the MoD hit back at accusations that it is gagging personnel with a posting on its website that said: "Personnel are not barred, and the rules are not new. These or similar have been around for years (Defence Council Instructions in 2004, 1999 and probably earlier)."
Instead, the MoD says the regulations have been "updated this year to reflect the findings of the Hall report". This was a report completed by former BBC News chief Tony Hall after Royal Navy personnel were allowed to sell their stories following their release from captivity in Iran earlier this year.
"Most public and private organisations of any size - in the UK and elsewhere - have rules on the authorisation processes to be followed before people speak publicly or to the media," says the MoD. "We want people to communicate what they do. But it must be properly authorised by their boss and, if it is potentially newsworthy, by MoD centrally."