The MoD has issued new guidelines to personnel in the army, RAF, and navy. They state soldiers can no longer blog, post on bulletin boards, or release video, stills or images. The government says the new restrictions have been put in place following the controversy over the MoD allowing two navy personnel, captured in Iran, to be paid for their stories. But through these blogs and video posts (see the Army rumour service board and Live Leak video site) we have learnt of inadequate equipment in theatre, and poor accommodation, as well as unique testimony of soldiers' lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. So have these restrictions been put in place to quell criticism? Are they legal? Are there good security considerations for the ban? And why, when blogs and video posts have been used by soldiers since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, are the MoD suddenly gagging their personnel?
This has all been provoked by the collective failure of the MoD to handle the crisis over the navy personnel who were captured by the Iranians. On the face of it it looks like an overreaction, and an unprecedented attempt to restrict freedom of speech. However, the counter-argument would be that by signing up to the armed services you voluntarily give up certain rights, and one of those is to spill the beans to the outside world.
My own view is that this attempt to gag our armed services will fail. The genie is out of the bottle. If someone has something to say via the internet the chances are that they will always find a way. And it will now make a bigger headline than it did before.