No establishment child porn cover-up, minister insists

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The old Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall, where ministers have denied a D-notice cover-up
The old Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall, where ministers have denied a D-notice cover-up

The government has denied asking journalists to shield senior ministers "allegedly involved in child pornography" from press coverage.

Defence minister Mark Francois offered a categorical denial in a letter to Labour backbencher Tom Watson after widespread online speculation about the potential impact of the 'defence advisory' (DA) notices on last year's paedophilia scandal.

The DA notices, first introduced in 1912 as 'defence notices', are the voluntary system by which the government asks the national press to avoid publishing or broadcasting items on national security grounds.

They have been recently used to limit reporting of sensitive material released in the 2010 Wikileaks scandal and, in 2009, when anti-terrorism documents held by theMetropolitan police's commissioner Bob Quick were photographed outside Downing Street.

"Although the allegations that 'D notices' have been used to shield senior figures allegedly involved in child pornography are widely repeated on the internet, there is absolutely no substance to them," Francois wrote.

He said DA notices cover five areas, including 'ciphers and secret communications', 'sensitive installations and home addresses' and 'nuclear and non-nuclear weapons and equipment'. Anything falling outside these guidelines, including "criminal activities, scandal, corruption or embarrassment" are strictly prohibited, Francois said.

He added: "If any advice was ever offered by anyone on those subjects, it would immediately be challenged and rejected, firstly by the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee media members and then by the media as a whole.

He then hit out at the internet as he pointed out it sometimes ignores the "normal professional standards of journalistic reporting".

Watson, publicising the letter on his Twitter feed, said he hoped the letter helps "debunks the myths" which have emerged in the wake of last year's unproven and incorrect allegations about figures like former Conservative treasurer Lord McAlpine.

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