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[infowar.de] FBI Shutdown of Indymedia Threatens Free Speech
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism
FBI Shutdown of Indymedia Threatens Free Speech
October 15, 2004
In a chilling attack on free speech, U.S. authorities on October 7 seized
two internet servers in London belonging to the independent media network
Indymedia. More than 20 Indymedia sites around the world were taken down
as a result of the raid. The servers were returned on October 14, but no
formal charges have been announced and no explanation has been given for
FBI spokesperson Joe Parris told Agence France Presse that the raid was
"not an FBI operation" but that the FBI issued the subpoena on behalf of
Italy and Switzerland (10/8/04). U.S. authorities have refused to comment
Rackspace, the U.S.-based company that hosts the Indymedia servers at its
London offices, revealed in a press release that the subpoena was issued
"pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which establishes
procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations such as
international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering." Rackspace told
Indymedia that they could not reveal any information about the
subpoena?apparently the result of a gag order (Indymedia, 10/7/04).
Swiss authorities said they have opened an investigation into Indymedia
coverage of the 2003 G8 Summit in Evian and that they had asked the FBI to
help remove photos of Swiss undercover police from a French Indymedia site
(AFP, 10/9/04). The FBI visited both a Seattle-based Indymedia lawyer and
Rackspace about the photos, and Indymedia believed the issue had been
resolved (Indymedia, 10/9/04). The site was among those housed on the
seized servers; Swiss authorities, however, have not indicated that they
asked the FBI to seize the servers.
An Italian prosecutor investigating an anarchist group reportedly also
requested assistance from the U.S. to obtain information about posts on
Italian Indymedia, but she apparently also did not request the seizure of
the servers (italy.indymedia.org, 10/14/04). While the details of the
subpoena remain undisclosed, the FBI's aggressive action against Indymedia
Indymedia, which provides grassroots reporting on social justice issues
and protests, is a decentralized network that allows anyone to post news
on its websites. If there is reason to suspect that participants on these
websites are involved with criminal activities, shutting down the servers
is rather like shutting down the phone system because people have been
using the telephone to plot crimes.
To silence over 20 media sites around the world with no charges and no
explanation strikes a severe blow against freedom of expression and should
trouble media outlets worldwide. European media have been covering the
story, but in this country, the media have been virtually silent. Aside
>from two AP articles (10/8/04, 10/14/04), one by UPI (10/11/04) and one in
the Hartford Courant (10/13/04), FAIR found no mainstream news outlets
reporting on the Indymedia story.
This is not the first time Indymedia has been targeted by U.S.
authorities. During the Republican National Convention in August, the
Secret Service attempted to obtain private records from NYC Indymedia's
Internet Service Provider; the ISP refused. The FBI attempted to obtain
similar records from Indymedia servers during the massive protests against
the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas in Quebec City but lost the legal
battle (Indymedia, 8/31/04).
If there is credible evidence of actual crimes that involve Indymedia
websites, then an investigation that respects Indymedia's rights as a
media outlet may be warranted. But FBI action that intimidates or silences
media around the world under a shroud of secrecy is an extraordinary and
grave threat to free speech.
ACTION: Please sign the Indymedia solidarity declaration
(http://solidarity.indymedia.org.uk/) denouncing the hard drive seizure
and demanding a full disclosure of who is involved in the seizure, a copy
of the court order, and an independent investigation into any violations
of due process.
For more information and updates, see: http://www.indymedia.org
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