Got this off the defence news blog - I think it highlights well the fact that there are often two sides to every story. TO REBUT OR NOT TO REBUT? THAT IS THE QUESTION When should a government department take issue with an article in the media and when should it turn the other cheek? When should it have a right of reply? And what happens if it cannot get its voice heard or its letter or article printed? We in MOD wrestle with these judgements more or less every day. Generally speaking we have gone away from responding whenever we see or hear something that we do not agree with. People are, after all, entitled to their opinion, including those that differ from ours (and the same applies in reverse). But now and again an opinion will be so one-sided in the way it is expressed that we wish to offer the alternative point of view. And when we do, most serious newspapers or broadcasters will allow us time or space to put our arguments across. When they don't we will use our blog to get our point across. For example, General Dannatt was reported in the Telegraph last week as suggesting our forces had failed in Iraq. He thinks nothing of the sort and wrote to say as much. "The mission was a success," he said. And to its credit the newspaper printed his letter in full. There is in my view a clear cut case for rebuttal when there are errors of fact. Sometimes a complete story may be wrong and groundless (for example, the front page splash a few months ago alleging that MOD was smearing aid worker Rachel Reid) - but this is pretty unusual. More common is the odd point stated in a wider article or comment piece that, though wrong, takes on a life of its own. A couple of these arose last week. On Friday an article in the Times argued for a bigger Army. In support of its case it said 'there are more civil servants in the MOD than people in the Army'. Even if there were some form of relationship between these two figures (which there is not), it was in fact wrong. There are about 99,000 people in the British Army. There are 86,600 civil servants in MOD. That is still a big number. But the figure falling in the head office pen-pusher/bean-counter/desk jockey category beloved of the headline is a fraction of this - a few thousand at most. The 86,600 includes merchant seamen in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, police and security guards, scientists who develop the technology that saves our soldiers' lives on operations, people responsible for procuring equipment, people who fix and maintain tanks and aircraft, and a lot more besides. On 21 June the Sunday Telegraph ran a headline piece, based on an article in an Army journal, in which a Major S Miller was quoted as saying that our mission in Afghanistan is a 'disaster'. This was picked up by others and by Friday we were being told by the Mirror that Major Miller had 'served in Afghanistan', and his views were 'the authentic voice of a serving officer'. In fact, Major Miller, a Territorial Army officer, wrote this article (which was indeed very critical) nine months ago when he was mobilised and working in the Defence Intelligence Staff. He has never served in Afghanistan. The 'authentic voice of a serving officer' on what is going on in Afghanistan - I would suggest - is to be found among those currently in Helmand. Several spoke passionately and positively about their mission on ITN Afghan week just last week. It would be pointless to pick up every error or inconsistency in every report. But I hope this post gives an insight into the sort of issues we face in any given week. And of course it is absolutely right that we should be picked up if we make mistakes.