The principle of “Need To Know” is prelude to D-Notice as regards national security and information dissemination. For a clearer understanding of the concept of D-Notice, it will be wiser to explain the principle of the Need to Know.
Need-to-Know is one of the most fundamental security principles and it is defined thus: “A determination made by a possessor of classified information that a prospective recipient, in the interest of national security, has a requirement for access to, knowledge, or possession of the classified information in order to perform tasks or services essential to the fulfillment of an official government program.”
Knowledge, possession of, or access to, classified information shall not be afforded to any individual solely by virtue of the individual’s office, position, or security clearance.
The responsibility to determine “need-to-know” is the responsibility of the individual who possesses the classified information. The need-to-know principle says that having the clearance for information is only half of the issue. The other half is having the need-to-know. Individuals with authorized access to classified information are required to limit access to that information only to individuals whose clearance and need-to-know has been verified. The need-to-know principle dictates that you, as an authorized holder of information, only share the information when two conditions are met. These are: One, the requester has the appropriate clearance and access. Two, the requester needs to know the information in order to perform his or her job functions. When both conditions are met, the information should be provided.
It must be noted that need-to-know imposes a some level responsibility on all authorized holders of classified information. 1. Limit your requests for information to that which you have a genuine need-to-know. You may be expected to explain why you need to know it. 2. Refrain from discussing classified information in areas where the discussion may be overheard by persons who do not have a need-to-know the subject of conversation. 3. If someone asks you for classified information, you are expected to ensure they are cleared appropriately and have an official need-to-know. You are also obliged to report to your security office any co-worker who repeatedly violates the need-to-know principle. This give birth to D-Notice.
D-Notice (Defense-Notice) which was changed in 1993 to DA-Notice (Defense Advisory Notice) is an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security. The system is still in use in the United Kingdom. It has also been adopted by many countries.
In the UK the original D-Notice system was introduced in 1912 and run as a voluntary system by a joint committee headed by an Assistant Secretary of the War Office and a representative of the Press Association. Any D-Notices or DA-notices are only advisory requests, and so are not legally enforceable; hence, news editors can choose not to abide by them. However, they are generally complied with by the media.
The need for media practitioners to abide by the principle is for national interest. A patriotic reporter cannot for any personal gain or prominence go contrary to D-Notice items. Journalists have some level of freedom to perform their duties unmolested, but they must also avoid reporting what is capable of causing security breach in the country.
Reporting confidential information can endanger the society that is why a journalist who loves his nation must know when to be patriotic and defend the unity and peace of a nation. The adage which says that humans have two eyes and a mouth cautions that one must not vomit everything he sees and knows.
As a journalist, one is not supposed to vomit everything he knows in order not to fall into trouble.