Repression of Indymedia: largest attack to date on the alternative press on the Internet

This item, is reproduced from a Spanish Site. I think it gives a fair overview of the developments …..

Repression of Indymedia: largest attack to date on the alternative press on the Internet

by Roberto Delgado – La Haine – [11-oct-04] – trans.

On the basis of the sparse data that the FBI and the commercial media have been providng, is possible to make a brief analysis of what this repression means for Indymedia and for the objectives of Indymedia. The ball is in our court. An act of this type forces the anticapitalist movement to raise its guard, and the steps taken at this point will be very important for the future.

Official version of events:

The chief prosecutor of Geneva, Daniel Zappelli, opened a judicial investigation, following a complaint made by two police inspectors of that city concerning the “publication of photographs and the name and address of one of them on the French Indymedia site (Nantes).”

The two undercover policemen were part of the G8 cell, concerned with investigating incidents in Geneva during the protests surrounding the Group of Eight meeting in Geneva in 2003.


On Thursday morning the 7 of October the FBI seduces Rackspace (supplier of Indymedia, American company with offices also in London, and carries off not only all the data pertaining to Indymedia Nantes, but also that of another twenty of the network’s websites in other countries.

Following the FBI’s action the sites remained inaccessible. Hours later some sites, having resorted to alternative servers shared in solidarity, were in operation again. Most of the sites have been closed for two or three days, although not all have yet recovered normality. The photos of the undercover policemen, that until now had been seen only in reduced circles, suddenly are known by leftist movements worldwide, since they continue to be accessible on the Internet in other pages, and accompany the glare of publicity this action has provoked.

Information on reasons is minimum. “I opened an investigation but I will say nothing else”, said the Geneva prosecutor. The FBI’s spokesperson Joe Parris asserted that the request to raid Indymedia’s ISP came from the Italian and Swiss governments”, without giving more details. “The people in charge of the Justice Ministry only fulfilled the legal obligations contained in our treaty of mutual support”, he insisted.

According to Geneva press, it was the police of that city who resorted to the North American FBI so as to pull the photos.

Trap and Fear:

At first sight, the two primary targets of this repressive activity are: 1. To divide the Network Indymedia; and 2. To create fear amongst alternative press activists.

1. With this action the Powerful impose a false debate in the internal Indymedia lists: Is it correct to publish photos and even data on secret police? This artificially provoked discussion would focus on the limits of journalistic ethics, the moral superiority that should characterize the militants of left and the necessity to avoid political-informative actions that provoke and could be used to justify repression. There are web sites (Indymedia Madrid, for example) that sometimes when they publish photos of demonstrations manipulate images to hide the faces of antiriot police [note, IMC Madrid denies this].

In this case, the System tries to remain on the sidelines. Its argument would go: “we ourseves have no desire to close down alternative media, but if someone fails to obey the law we have no choice but to accept judicial decisions.” If we accept this false debate, all we have left is to argue amongst ourselves, instead of being united in opposition to “this massive attack on freedom of expression.”

What is clear is that there are serious probabilities that numerous Indymedia activists wil fall in the trap of this debate, that can go on forever and would lead to a rupturing of the cohesion of the global Network.

2. Any activst is likely to feel threatened on reading the headline: “FBI closes Indymedia servers”. Although this repressive act represents the largest attack to date on the alternative press on the Internet, up to now it is not especially painful, but rather, symbolic. Most of the web sites were again accessible within a few days, and, more important, following this action they achieve, through sharing in solidarity alternative servers, a greater diffusion of the project and an increase of the number of visits. Obviously those in power take this into account, but such news does not stop being impressive.

The big shots are giving us a warning in an attempt to make us feel afraid: when they decide to attack the anticapitalist movement there will be no international law nor freedom of expression worth anything; the forces of repression will act with total impunity.

This is not to say that this attack could not be the embryo of an even larger scale operation against Indymedia that tries to completely destroy the the virtual network’s activity. We do not discard that within a few months other repressive acts take place such as arrests of activists.

All will depend on the response we make as a movement.

The true debate: the information monopoly sees itself in danger:

The discussion that all activists of the anticapitalist movement should face up to in relation to the repression of Indymedia is: How do we respond to this attack? How do we avoid this type of repressive activities in the future?

It is a matter of asking ourselves these questions. As for me I offer some reflections:

This action cannot go unpunished. We should activate mechanisms of social mobilization in the street to defend our alternative media, such as informative conversations, demonstrations, propaganda actions and complaints, etc. Scandal and social awareness are now the worst enemies of power. It is true that governments can deepen the repression of Indymedia and other alternative media with arrests and imprisonments, but we should not forget that that is its way of defending itself. If for our part we make the decision to not expose infiltrated police and if in general we moderate the policies developed in alternative media, we are falling into the trap they have laid for us, resigning ourselves to reporting only within limits established by those in power. In effect, accepting defeat. The authorities act when the information monopoly sees itself in danger.

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APC condemns “arbitrary” seizure of IndyMedia web servers by US and European law enforcers

APC condemns the actions by US and European law enforcement agencies to seize independent online news service Indymedia’s web servers, which has led to the closure of more than 21 of the more than 140 Indymedia web sites worldwide since October 7.

“We are disturbed by the apparently arbitrary and extreme measures taken to silence an independent internet-based source of information,” said Anriette Esterhuysen, APC’s Executive Director. “This is a violation of freedom of expression across international frontiers.”

None of the agencies involved has admitted or provided reasons for the seizure though Rackspace, the company which provided web hosting for the sites and handed the servers over to law enforcers, said in a statement that their action was “in compliance with a court order pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT)”. MLAT establishes procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations regarding international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering and so using it to remove an independent news source would appear to be an abuse.

APC is of the view that the provisions of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” have been violated by the US and European governments.

APC opposes censorship on the internet and states in its Internet Rights Charter that “the internet is a medium for both public and private exchange of views and information. People must be able to express opinions and ideas, and share information freely when using the internet.”

APC is of the view that the right of freedom of expression and access to the internet of the citizens of Ambazonia, Andorra, Antwerpen, Belgrade, Brazil, East and West Vlaanderen, Euskal Herria, Galiza, Germany, Italy, Liege, Lilles, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Poland, Portugal, Prague, Uruguay, Western Massachusetts, and the UK (where the affected IndyMedia Centres are) has been violated. As freedom is indivisible, a violation of one citizen’s rights is a violation of all global citizens’ rights.

APC understands the difficulties that server farms like Rackspace face when prosecutors come knocking at their door, flashing court orders and demanding the immediate hand-over of their equipment. APC urges that internet service provider (ISP) associations and other industry associations take precautions to protect their members from becoming unintentionally complicit in the violation of freedom of speech. There is a need for ISPs to have access to information about their rights to protect their clients.

APC demands that the US and European governments concerned provide reasons for their actions and explain their violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on what basis they made use of the MLAT to silence Indymedia, an independent source of information on the internet.

“European and North American governments which frequently point to human rights abuses in countries from the Global South need to explain their own apparently arbitrary abuse of Indymedia’s rights and those of its readers,” said Anriette Esterhuysen.

APC Internet Rights Charter:

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ABOUT APCThe Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially internet-related technologies. APC’s network of members and partners in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America all support the use of internet and ICTs for social justice and sustainable development.



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The above, is a statement from my own Internet Service Provider :: Association for Progressive Communications (APC) / GreenNet

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