CENSORSHIP CENSORSHIP OF Members of the Australian Military Forces from writing or talking on military matters: COMMUNICATION OF PROHIBITED DEFENCE MATERIAL: COMMUNICATION OF SECRET MATERIAL: legaLITY OF ARMY Order relating to publication of information: BANNING BY Censorship of publication of any articles by or interviews with soldiers which do not conform to the Army OrdeR: RELEVANCE OF DISCIPLINE OF SOLDIER BY ARMY : publication OF articles or interviews without censorship approvAL
DEFENCE ACT 1903 ss 73, 73 a: CRIMES ACT 1914 s 79: Regulations and OrderS for the Australian Military Forces para 309: Acts Interpretation Act 1901 s 48: National Security (General) Regulations reg 17
I am in receipt of your memorandum of the 10th August, 1943, advising me that the Acting Director-General of Public Relations (Army) has circularised his deputies in all States instructing them to insist upon observance of an Army Order which forbids members of the Australian Military Forces from writing or talking on military matters for publication by any means whatever, and enclosing copy of a circular which has been sent to newspapers by the Director-General of Public Relations.
The law relating to the giving of information to the Press by members of the Defence Forces is contained in section 73A of the Defence Act which reads as follows:
- Any member of the Defence Force or officer in the Public Service of the Commonwealth who communicates to any person otherwise than in the course of his official duty any plan, document, or information relating to any fort, battery, field work, fortification, or defence work, or to any defences of the Commonwealth, or to any factory, or air-force aerodrome or establishment, or any other naval, military or air-force information, shall be guilty of an offence.
- Any person who unlawfully obtains any plan, document, or information relating to any fort, battery, field work, fortification, or defence work, or air-force aerodrome or establishment, or to any of the defences of the Commonwealth or any other naval, military or air-force information, shall be guilty of an offence.
Section 79 of the Crimes Act also makes it an offence for any person to communicate certain secret information which he has obtained owing to his position as a person holding office under the King or the Commonwealth.
I have no information as to the Army order referred to by you, but the following appears in paragraph 309 of the Regulations and Orders for the Australian Military Forces:
309. (4) Any communication affecting the Military Forces generally, or any branch, arm, or department thereof, which it is considered desirable to make to the press, will be made from Headquarters. Informations, &c., communications may only be made when they affect solely the command concerned, and will be made from the headquarters of the formation, &c., all applications by representatives of the press being referred to an authorized staff officer.
With regard to the questions raised in your memorandum, my views are as follows:
Question (a)–Should Censorship as a matter of duty ban publication of any articles by or interviews with soldiers which do not conform strictly to the Army Order?
As I have already indicated, I am not clear as to what is contained in the Army Order. It may be that the reference should be to section 73A of the Defence Act. In any case, it seems probable that the Order relates to the communication and not the publication of the information, and it appears doubtful to me whether there is any legal authority for the issue by Army Authorities of an Order relating to the publication of information. I do not think, therefore, that Censorship Authorities are bound to ban the publication of any articles by, or interviews with, soldiers which do not conform strictly to the Army Order. If, however, a Publicity Censor considers it desirable to do so, I think it would be within his powers to give a direction to the editor or publisher of a newspaper forbidding the publication of a particular article or a particular interview, unless the conditions contained in the Army Order have been complied with or the approval of a Censor has been obtained.
General directions could, if so desired, be issued to newspapers, but, as I indicated to you verbally some time ago, I think that general directions to newspapers should be included in the Order relating to Press Censorship and laid before each House of Parliament in accordance with section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act if it is desired to prosecute for breaches of such directions.
Question (b)–Should censorship treat all submissions strictly from a security point of view in accordance with our section 7 Consolidated, ignoring the fact that, as a direct result of publication, the soldier concerned would be disciplined by Army for his disobedience of an Order?
I see no legal objection to such a course. Disciplinary action could be taken against the soldier whether or not the article or interview was published.
Question (c)–Would a newspaper publishing any such articles or interviews without censorship approval commit an offence and be liable to prosecution?
In my opinion, no offence would be committed by the publication of the article or interview unless such publication was in contravention of a direction issued by a Publicity Censor, or constituted an offence against regulation 17 or some other provision of the National Security (General) Regulations.
[Vol. 35, p. 277]