Independent Media Center

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Independent Media Center (Indymedia)
Imclogo2.gif
Indymedia logo
Type Open publishing
Format Online
Owner(s) None
Founded November 24, 1999
Political alignment Anti-corporate
Language English, Spanish, Greek French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Hebrew and Arabic
Headquarters Various
Website Indymedia.org
Temporary IMC in Edinburgh covering protests at the 2005 G8 summit

The Independent Media Center (also known as Indymedia or IMC) is a global participatory network of journalists that report on political and social issues. It originated during the Seattle anti-WTO protests worldwide in 1999 and remains closely associated with the global justice movement, which criticizes neo-liberalism and its associated institutions. Indymedia uses an open publishing and democratic media process that allows anybody to contribute.

According to its homepage, "Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage. Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth."[1] Indymedia was founded as an alternative to government and corporate media, and seeks to facilitate people being able to publish their media as directly as possible.[2]

Overview[edit]

The first Indymedia project was started in late November 1999 to report on protests against the WTO meeting that took place in Seattle, Washington, and to act as an alternative media source.[3] This followed a successful experiment in June that year, reporting the events of the Carnival Against Capitalism in London, UK. The Media team there used software and unmediated reports from protest participants.[4] The open publishing script was first developed by video activists in Sydney, Australia. "Even more importantly, a group of hackers in Sydney, Australia, had written a special piece of software for live updating of the webpage devoted to their local J18 event. Six months later, this “Active Software” would be used in the American city of Seattle, as the foundation of the Indymedia project – a multiperspectival instrument of political information and dialogue for the twenty-first century"[5][6][7][8]

After Seattle the idea and network spread rapidly. By 2002, there were 89 Indymedia websites covering 31 countries (and the Palestinian territories),[9] growing to over 150 by January 2006, not all of them currently active. Indymedia websites publish in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, French, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew.[10]

IMC collectives distribute print, audio, photo, and video media, but are most well known for their open publishing newswires, sites where anyone with internet access can publish news from their own perspective. The content of an IMC is determined by its participants, both the users who post content, and members of the local Indymedia collective who administer the site. While Indymedias worldwide are run autonomously and differ according to the concerns of their users, they share a commitment to provide copyleft content. The general rule is that content on Indymedia sites can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes.[11]

Content and focus[edit]

Belgian Indymedia's headquarters in Brussels

The origins of IMCs themselves came out of protests against the concentrated ownership and perceived biases in corporate media reporting. The first IMC node, attached as it was to the Seattle anti-corporate globalization protests, was seen by activists as an alternative news source to that of the corporate media, which they accused of only showing violence and confrontation, and portraying all protesters negatively.[12][13][14][15][16][17]

As a result, between 1999 and 2001, IMC newswires tended to be focused on up-to-the-minute coverage of protests, from local demonstrations to summits where anti-globalization movement protests were occurring, with protest coverage continuing into 2007.[18]

IMC also run a global radio project which aggregates audio RSS feeds from around the world.[19]

Organizational structure[edit]

Indymedia collective at Mato Grosso Federal University in Cuiabá, Brazil hosting a free radio broadcast in 2004.

IMC is formed of local collectives which are expected to be open and inclusive of individuals from a variety of different local anti-capitalist points of view, whether or not these have any definite political philosophy, so that even those without internet access can participate in both content creation and in content consumption. Editorial policies, locally chosen by any Indymedia collective, generally involve removing articles which the Indymedia editors believe promote racism, sexism, hate speech, and homophobia.[20] All Indymedia collectives are expected to have a locally chosen, thoroughly discussed and clearly stated editorial policy for posts to their website.[20]

Criticism[edit]

Views on Israel and Jews[edit]

In a 2002 op-ed, alter-globalisation activist Naomi Klein criticised Indymedia for perpetuating conspiracy theories about the Jews, including supposed involvement with the September 11 attacks and re-posting from the infamous hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[21] In the same year, the Swiss edition of Indymedia was accused of anti-Semitism by Aktion Kinder des Holocaust, which unsuccessfully sued them for publishing a Carlos Latuff cartoon of a Jewish boy in the Warsaw Ghetto saying "I am Palestinian," though this was criticized by IMC as an attempt to stifle criticism of Israel in Switzerland.[22][23][24]

Google temporarily stopped including some IMCs in Google News searches due to the use of the term "zionazi". Marissa Mayer, at the time the product manager of Google News, explained the removal by describing the term as a "degrading, hateful slur" and refused to index the Bay Area IMC because it had appeared there. While SF Bay Area Indymedia agreed that it "could be considered hate speech", they considered this a double standard due to Google News indexing articles using racist and defamatory language against Arabs and Muslims, such as the term "Islamofascism".[25]

Servers seizures[edit]

Indymedia has had interactions with authorities in USA and UK.

Seizure of servers by the FBI[edit]

On October 7, 2004, the FBI took possession of several server hard drives used by a number of IMCs and hosted by US-based Rackspace Managed Hosting. The servers in question were located in the United Kingdom and managed by the British arm of Rackspace, but some 20 mainly European IMC websites were affected, and several unrelated websites were affected, including the website of a Linux distribution.[26] No reasons were given at first by the FBI and Rackspace for the seizure, in particular IMC was not informed. Rackspace claimed that it was banned from giving further information about the incident.[27] Some, but not all, of the legal documents relating to the confiscation of the servers were unsealed by a Texas district court in August 2005, following legal action by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The documents revealed that the only action requested by the government was to surrender server log files.[28][29]

A statement by Rackspace[30] stated that the company had been forced to comply with a court order under the procedures laid out by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which governs international police co-operation on "international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering". The investigation that led to the court order was said to have arisen outside of the U.S. Rackspace stated that they were prohibited on giving further detail. Agence France-Presse reported FBI spokesman Joe Parris,[31] who said the incident was not an FBI operation, but that the subpoena had been issued at the request of the Italian and the Swiss governments. Again, no further details on specific allegations were given. UK involvement was denied in an answer given to a parliamentary question posed by Richard Allan, Liberal Democrat MP.[32]

Indymedia pointed out that they were not contacted by the FBI and that no specific information was released on the reasons of seizing the servers. Indymedia also sees the incident in the context of "numerous attacks on independent media by the US Federal Government", including a subpoena to obtain IP logs from Indymedia at the occasion of the Republican National Conference,[33] the shut-down of several community radio stations in the US by the FCC, and a request by the FBI to remove a post on Nantes IMC containing a photograph of alleged undercover Swiss police.[34]

The move was condemned by the International Federation of Journalists, who stated that "The way this has been done smacks more of intimidation of legitimate journalistic inquiry than crime-busting" and called for an investigation.[35] Criticism was also voiced by European civil liberties organisation Statewatch[36] and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC).[37] Mathew Honan commented in Salon that "This kind of thing doesn’t happen to Wolf Blitzer".[38] EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl compared the case with Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service.[38]

In Italy, the federal prosecutor of Bologna Marina Plazzi confirmed that an investigation against Indymedia had been opened because of suspected "support of terrorism", in the context of Italian troops in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. The investigation was triggered after 17 members of the coalition government belonging to the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale, including Alessandra Mussolini, demanded that Indymedia be shut down. A senior party member and government official had announced the co-operation with US authorities, and party spokesman Mario Landolfi welcomed the FBI's seizure of the Indymedia servers. Left-wing Italian politicians denounced the move and called for an investigation.[39]

Bristol server seizure[edit]

Graffito in Bristol, United Kingdom advertising the local chapter of Indymedia with the slogan "Read it, write it, your site, your news"

Not long after the Rackspace affair another server in the UK was seized by police in June 2005. An anonymous post on the Bristol Indymedia server, came to police attention for suggesting an "action" against a freight train carrying new cars as part of a protest against cars and climate change in the run up to that year's Gleneagles G8 summit.[40] The police claimed that the poster broke the law by "incitement to criminal damage", and sought access logs from the server operators. Despite being warned by lawyers that the servers were "journalistic equipment" and subject to special laws,[41] the police proceeded with the seizure and a member of the Bristol Indymedia group was arrested.[42] Indymedia was supported in this matter by the National Union of Journalists, Liberty[43] and Privacy International, along with others. This incident ended several months later with no charges being brought by the police and the equipment returned.[44] Prior to the original server being returned, Bristol Indymedia was donated a replacement server by local IT co-operative, Bristol Wireless.[45]

Other legal actions in the United States[edit]

On January 30, 2009, one of the system administrators of the server that hosts indymedia.us received a grand jury subpoena from the Southern District of Indiana federal court. The subpoena asked the administrator to provide all "IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information" for every visitor to the site on June 25, 2008.[46] The subpoena also included a gag order that stated that the recipient is "not to disclose the existence of this request unless authorized by the Assistant U.S. Attorney."[46] The administrator of indymedia.us could not have provided the information because Indymedia sites generally do not keep IP address logs. The Electronic Frontier Foundation determined that there was no legal basis for the gag order, and that the subpoena request "violated the SCA's restrictions on what types of data the government could obtain using a subpoena."[46] Under Justice Department guidelines, subpoenas to news media must have the authorization of the attorney general. According to a CBS News blog, the subpoena of indymedia.us was never submitted for review by the Attorney General.[47] On February 25, 2009, a United States Attorney sent a letter to an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation stating that the subpoena had been withdrawn.[47]

Police action against IMC[edit]

A Greek riot policeman wielding a baton in the direction of a photographer during a protest at the Athens courts, as published by the Athens Indymedia[48]

On August 15, 2000, the Los Angeles Police Department temporarily shut down the satellite uplink and production studio of the Los Angeles Independent Media Center on its first night of Democratic National Convention coverage, claiming explosives were in a van in the adjacent parking lot.[49]

In July, 2001 at the 27th G8 summit in Genoa, Indymedia journalists were seriously assaulted at the Diaz school where Indymedia had set up a temporary journalism center and radio station. Twenty-nine Italian police officers were indicted for grievous bodily harm, planting evidence and wrongful arrest during a night-time raid on the Diaz School, and thirteen were convicted.[50][51]

On June 1, 2003, Indymedia journalist Guy Smallman was seriously injured by a police grenade[52][53] in Geneva. He was covering protests against the G8 summit in nearby Evian for Indymedia and Image Sans Frontière.

Brad Will shooting[edit]

Indymedia banner in the Netherlands protesting the Oaxaca shootings
Main article: Brad Will

On October 27, 2006, New York–based journalist and indymedia volunteer Bradley Roland Will was killed along with two Mexican protesters in the city of Oaxaca. People had been demonstrating in the city since May as part of an uprising prompted by a teachers strike. Lizbeth Cana, attorney general of Oaxaca, claimed the conflict was caused by the protesters and that the gunmen who engaged them were upset residents from the area.[citation needed] The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, however, claimed the men may have been local police.[citation needed] Reporters Without Borders condemned the actions of the Mexican government in allowing the accused to go free.[54] Protesters also allege that the men were police and not local residents. Associated Press alleged that the protesters also had guns, describing the conflict as a "shootout".[citation needed]

Prizes and honors[edit]

In April 2008, in Brazil, IMC and (posthumously) Brad Will received the Medalha Chico Mendes de Resistência (Chico Mendes Resistance Medal in Portuguese) from the Brazilian humanitarian group Tortura Nunca Mais (No more torture in Portuguese) for their contributions to human rights and a more fair society.[55][56]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Indymedia global home page
  2. ^ Haas, Tanni (July 1, 2007). "Do citizen-based media of communication advance public journalism's ideals? Evidence from the empirical research literature" (fee required). International Journal of Communication (New York: Gale Group). OCLC 1AIY ASAP. Retrieved August 11, 2009. 
  3. ^ First ever Indymedia post, made November 24, 1999[dead link]
  4. ^ Anonymous, "June 18th 1999 Carnival Against Capital", in Days of Dissent!, 2004, accessed online at http://web.archive.org/web/20050508150407/daysofdissent.org.uk/j18.htm
  5. ^ Brian Holmes
  6. ^ Rabble
  7. ^ Benjamin Mako Hill
  8. ^ Zanny Begg
  9. ^ "Wayback Machine – indymedia.org circa September 1, 2002". Archived from the original on September 1, 2002. Retrieved April 5, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Indymedia's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". Indymedia Documentation Project. July 25, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2009. 
  11. ^ See IMC "Principles of Unity"
  12. ^ "Independent+Media+Center" "Archives". The Seattle Times. 
  13. ^ "Independent+Media+Center" "Archives". The Seattle Times. 
  14. ^ Shukovsky, Paul (August 5, 2001). "Media center fighting FBI over Web data". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  15. ^ Shukovsky, Paul (April 23, 2001). "FBI raids media center". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  16. ^ "An overflow crowd vents its anger at city, police". [dead link]
  17. ^ Seattle, National Lawyers Guild WTO Legal Group. "Waging War on Dissent". Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  18. ^ "Climate Camp 2007". UK Indymedia. March 4, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Radio Indymedia". radio.indymedia.org. Retrieved August 11, 2009. 
  20. ^ a b Shine, Simon (July 22, 2008). "Principles of Uity". indymedia.org. Retrieved June 11, 2009. 
  21. ^ Naomi Klein. "'Sharon, Le Pen, and Anti-Semitism'". Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  22. ^ Alex Schärer: Linke und Antisemitismus: Der Indymedia-Streit – Aufpassen, was im Kübel landet, Die Wochenzeitung, April 4, 2002
  23. ^ Junge Welt: Ärger im Internet: Wegen antisemitischer Beiträge hat Indymedia Schweiz den Betrieb gestoppt, February 25, 2002
  24. ^ Aktion Kinder des Holocaust: Is this cartoon by Latuff, published at indymedia-switzerland, anti-Semitic? An analysis
  25. ^ Google News Bans SF Bay Area Indymedia Over Israel/Palestine Controversy
  26. ^ FBI seizes Indymedia servers, Sydney Morning Herald, 2004-10-08
  27. ^ Indymedia report
  28. ^ EFF Statement
  29. ^ John Lettice, US court files reveal Italian link to Indymedia server grab, The Register, August 3, 2005, Retrieved August 25, 2005
  30. ^ Quoted in FBI Seizes IMC Servers in the UK, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  31. ^ News website Indymedia says FBI seized server
  32. ^ MP Richard Allan's website
  33. ^ American Civil Liberties Union : Statement of Brian Szymanski Regarding Secret Service Investigation of Indymedia
  34. ^ Indymedia's page on the FBI seizure
  35. ^ "More Intimidation Than Crime-Busting" Says IFJ As Police Target Independent Media Network, IFJ press release, October 8, 2004, Retrieved August 28, 2007
  36. ^ Was the seizure of Indymedia's servers in London unlawful or did the UK government collude? , Statewatch Press release, October 2004, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  37. ^ FBI seizes Indymedia servers in the United Kingdom, bulletin, October 8, 2004, Retrieved August 28, 2007
  38. ^ a b Who nabbed Indymedia’s computers? The freewheeling network of Web sites has a history of clashing with authority. But usually it knows who is trying to shut it up. By Mathew Honan, Nov 9, 2004
  39. ^ Damiano Valgolio, The Censorers Trace leads to Rome and Zurich, Junge Welt, October 11, 2004, cited at Indymedia to U.S., U.K., Swiss and Italian Authorities: "Hands Off Our Websites", Retrieved August 25, 2007
  40. ^ John Leyden, Legal row after police seize Bristol Indymedia server, The Register, June 28, 2005
  41. ^ PRESS RELEASE : Bristol Indymedia Server Threatened, Bristol IMC press release, June 24, 2005, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  42. ^ Indymedia server seized in raid, BBC News, June 28, 2005, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  43. ^ "Freedom of press under attack?". BBC Bristol News (BBC NEWS). June 30, 2005. Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  44. ^ imcvol (May 27, 2008). "Bristol Indymedia Summer Newsletter". Bristol Indymedia (BIMC). Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  45. ^ Bristol, Wireless. "Indymedia Returns! :)". Bristol Wireless. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  46. ^ a b c Electronic Frontier Foundation "Anatomy of a Bogus Subpoena", Retrieved on 2009-11-11.
  47. ^ a b Declan McCullagh "Justice Dept. Asked For News Site's Visitor Lists", Retrieved on 2009-11-11.
  48. ^ Athens Indymedia
  49. ^ [Imc-Nyc] Lapd Blocks Satellite Feed Of Indymedia Coverage Of Dnc In Los Angeles
  50. ^ Arens, Marianne (November 24, 2008). "Italy: Judgement in G8 police raid trial". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved June 1, 2009. 
  51. ^ "Campaigners fear Italy G8 trouble". BBC News. December 5, 2008. Retrieved June 1, 2009. 
  52. ^ "Photographer injured by riot police in Geneva". Archived from the original on September 25, 2006. , NUJ report, June 2, 2003, Retrieved August 25, 2007[dead link]
  53. ^ New Pics: G8-"Rabbit Hunt" on Guy Smallman, Switzerland IMC, June 10, 2006, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  54. ^ Two suspects in cameraman Brad Will's murder freed for lack of evidence, RSF press release, December 5, 2006, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  55. ^ CMI Brasil – CMI é homenageado pelo Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais com a medalha Chico Mendes
  56. ^ CMI Brasil – [Rio de Janeiro] Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais homenagea o CMI com a medalha Chico Mendes

External links[edit]