THE present British Government has been frequently accused of deliberate assaults upon the liberty of the press and other organs of public opinion. Now the most obvious of all political platitudes is that freedom to report, criticize and suggest is the breath of life to democracy. Shackle the newspapers, the radio, the film and the platform, and you have travelled far towards the totalitarian State. The gravity of the charge, then, need not be labored.
Undoubtedly the National Government has been heavy-handed in its treatment of the British news machine, especially since Mr. Chamberlain became Prime Minister. Its latest spectacular lapse was at the beginning of April, when the nerves of Europe were just about as tense as they could be in consequence of Signor Mussolini's piracy in Albania. At a naval meeting in Portsmouth, Lord Stanhope, the Minister in charge of the Admiralty, explained some empty benches by saying that "unfortunately, shortly before I left the Admiralty it became necessary to give orders to man anti-aircraft guns." This sensational announcement, based, it was afterwards explained, upon nothing more substantial than a standing order that certain men should be at their stations at moments of tension, was at once flashed round the world by the news agencies and put on the air by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Nevertheless, when the Prime Minister heard of it later in the evening, he caused to be sent out to the British press the most emphatic official appeal which can be issued against the publication of an item of news, what is called a "D" notice. His belated and arbitrary action caused confusion and irritation and was the subject a few days later of a unanimous resolution of protest by the annual meeting of the National Union of Journalists. The mover of the resolution said that "the censorship mind" dominates at Whitehall.
The Stanhope incident would not have created the stir it did had there not been earlier deeds and words which could plausibly be
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