22 DECEMBER 1939, Page 2

Mr. Churchill and the Censor

Last Saturday Sir Walter Monckton, Director-General of the Censorship Bureau, informed a representative gathering of journalists that he hoped to give them greater assistance than had been possible in the past, and he appealed to them to co-operate with him as he proposed to co-operate with them. There was an excellent opportunity of illustrating the new partnership on the following day, when Pressmen were given full facilities for watching the disembarkation of the Canadian forces on the understanding that no reports should appear till Wednesday ; and the Press with one accord held its hand as it was required to do. Whether it was sensible to hold up the news so long is not the point at issue —which is that on Monday night Mr. Churchill, broadcast- ing on the war at sea, upset the whole conspiracy by divulging the news a day and a half before it was due to appear. The official Court Circular had also disclosed the secret. The incident was the more disturbing in view of the fact that the Service departments are the real authorities behind the Censorship. It is natural to draw from this the conclusion that the Censor ought to be the supreme authority in regard to the release of news, and that there should be strict co-ordination of activities between him and the Service departments. Such a conclusion may be just, but it is not a propos. The real fact is that Mr. Churchill was guilty of an indiscretion. The best Censorship and the best liaison in the world could not prevent the First Lord of the Admiralty from disclosing news unless he imposed on him- self, as every Minister should do, the same self-denying ordinance as that by which the Press is bound. It was Mr. Churchill's fault, but because of his many virtues he will be forgiven.