indymedia

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Temporary IMC in Edinburgh covering protests at the 2005 G8 summit
The Independent Media Center (aka Indymedia or IMC) is a global network of participatory journalists that reports with a generally left-wing perspective on political and social issues. It originated in and remains closely associated with the global justice movement, which criticizes neo-liberalism, and its associated institutions. Indymedia uses an open publishing process that allows anybody to contribute.

Its motto reads:
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]

Overview

The first Indymedia project was started in late November of 1999 to report on protests against the WTO meeting that took place in Seattle, Washington, and to act as an alternative media source. This followed a successful experiment in June that year, reporting the events of the "Carnival Against Capital". The Media team there used software and unmediated reports from protest participants [2].

After Seattle the idea and network spread rapidly. By 2002, there were 89 Indymedia websites covering 31 countries (plus Palestinian Authority), growing to over 150 by January 2006. The country with the most IMCs is the United States with 60, followed by Italy with 15.

IMC Collectives distribute print, audio, photo, and video journalism, but are most well known for their open publishing newswires. Sites where anyone with internet access can publish their news. 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.[3]

Content and Focus

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Indymedia sticker in Canary Wharf
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. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

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. In 2007, this is still the case [10] but some IMCs are attempting to broaden their coverage to include more of what "traditional" journalism ignores.[11]

Organisational Structure

Local

Local IMC collectives are expected to be open and inclusive of individuals from a variety of different local revolutionary, left-wing, anarchist, communist and other anti-capitalist stances, whether or not these have any definite political philosophy, so that even those without internet access can participate both in 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. Some local IMC collectives remove articles written from right-wing or conservative perspectives[12].

All Indymedia collectives are expected to have a locally chosen, thoroughly discussed and clearly stated editorial policy for posts to their website.

Global

The overall Indymedia network is decentralized to the extent that the local IMCs operate independently once they are authenticated into the IMC network. The process of admission into the IMC network is somewhat centralized but is relatively relaxed and transparent compared to the occasionally contentious disputes within local IMCs and has not generated a great deal of criticism. Local IMC collectives vary widely in their openness, editorial policies and tolerance of different viewpoints. Along with the locally-organised collectives are IMC websites dealing with particular topics (such as biotechnology) or for different media (such as video). Along with contributing their own media, core organizers maintain IMC's open publishing infrastructure, enabling different people throughout the internet to publish their news. IMC editing is done by a system of layered admin which contributors apply to join for each site, by participating on open email lists and attending open meetings.

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Indymedia Video Activism workshop at the DIY Culture festival [1] held at the Decoy Centre, Digbeth, Birmingham, Jan 2005


As an example of different models for collective internal organizing, the DC IMC (one of the older IMCs in the network) adopted a different and more formal model of organizing as a Coop. Members pay small monthly dues (waived for any who need it to be) and put labor into a volunteer task of some sort that helps with the day-to-day needs of the coop. In contrast, other IMC local collectives are without any formally-defined membership and have minimal organizational structure.

Some IMC memberships require its members to sign a mission statement -- not every IMC has a formalized policy. Some collectives do ban members for repeated rules violations. Some feel that membership includes only those actively doing organizing or other IMC work, while some feel that it actually extends to every IMC contributor.

Stated goals of independence

Indymedia was founded as an alternative to government and mainstream media, and seeks to facilitate people being able to publish their media as directly as possible.

Funding

IMCs tend to be funded solely by donations of money and equipment from individuals. In maintaining its independence and anti-corporate stance, Indymedia has had struggles with funding issues. For example, in September 2002, the Ford Foundation proposed funding for an Indymedia regional meeting. This was ultimately refused because many volunteers, especially some from IMC Argentina, were uncomfortable with accepting money from the Foundation, which some believe to be linked to the CIA.

Political criticism of Indymedia

Hate Speech

Open publishing has left some IMCs in Europe vulnerable to legal action or threats of legal action related to questions of libel or hate speech. In some such cases, local IMC collectives took autonomous decisions to temporarily suspend the site while the different activist groups reorganized to find a consensual, constructive method of dealing with these problems and to increase openness and non-authoritarian organizing methods.

Informal hierarchy

The structure of IMCs is formally non-hierarchical in terms of authority within the projects; however, there do exist de facto hierarchies, due either to control over physical resources (e.g. servers); access to funds; accuracy determination; the fact that certain "global" functions are needed; or simply because it makes sense to coordinate within geographically close regions, without any formal link to geographical borders.

Some operational decisions are made by a small core of individuals holding administrator passwords, but Indymedia strives to make decisions in an open, community level. Some decision-making, collaboration and mutual aid is required at the network, or "global" level, such as maintenance of the technical resources.

Another aspect of informal hierarchy is the perceived emergence of "Indymedia specialists". Rather than participants in protests writing the report themselves, some people go to a protest to "do Indymedia", as if they were professional journalists, thus reproduing the separation (mediation) between reporter and participant that Indymedia is supposed to break down.[13]

In addition to email and mailing lists, meetings and real-time communication are done via the Indymedia IRC network: irc.indymedia.org. Various technical and other organizing documentation is available at the Indymedia documentation wiki: docs.indymedia.org.

Editorial policy

Although attempts have been made to formalize global editorial standards, the autonomous and independent nature of Indymedia has meant that many IMCs prefer their own local policies. As a result, many deal with similar issues and complaints, particularly around matters of distinguishing between criticism and hateful comments ("hate speech"); and the criteria for selecting issues and authors for the websites' "featured articles". While freedom of speech is valued highly by Indymedia collectives, it is rarely the overriding principle guiding editorial policy. [14].

Many IMCs now routinely remove from the front page "newswire" articles copied from corporate-run or state-run press sources. This policy (where implemented) is intended by those IMCs to keep Indymedia as an independent news source, rather than a blog of articles from existing news sources.

There is generally an editorial electronic mailing list, to which questions and complaints may be directed.

Reputation

Indymedia lacks representation from any currently Communist nation, or from most Muslim countries away from the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Notts Indymedia volunteer in media bias debate at the University of Nottingham, March 2006
Indymedia has a variable reputation, both amongst its users and outside critics. While some criticize Indymedia for adopting a position hostile to the interests of capital, others believe that this is the purpose of the media. Still others believe that its editorial policy on feature selection and hiding or deletion of articles is overly biased in certain topic areas, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some critics argue that since anyone can publish with little to no editorial process, unsubstantiated allegations and conspiracy theories are often published as fact, along with inaccurate articles and content that can offend.

In its favor, others argue Indymedia is a viable or preferable alternative to corporate media. Its operations are conducted by activists around the world, who, though they may be lacking in journalistic training and corporate funding, tend to make up for this with enthusiasm for reporting issues of social justice and unique related events, which in their view, the corporate media under-reports or censors. For example, the Bolivian Gas War in 2003 was virtually unheard of in the US media, while it received extensive worldwide and multilingual reporting through Indymedia. Another example is the February 15, 2003 anti-war protest in many US and European cities, which received detailed coverage written by its participants.

While Indymedia has global aspirations, the vast majority of IMCs are in North America, Latin America and Europe. Although the Middle East is an area of considerable interest to Indymedia, there are only three IMCs in the region, located in Beirut, Lebanon, Cyprus and Israel, although there was a Palestine IMC in Jerusalem between 2001 and 2003. The Lebanon center is one of three IMCs in Muslim nations; the other two are in Jakarta, Indonesia and Istanbul, Turkey.

Temporary removal from Google News searches

In early May 2003, after receiving numerous complaints about newswire stories that referred to the Israeli military (IDF) as "Zionazi forces" ([15]) or to Israelis as "Zionazis" [16], Google temporarily stopped including some IMCs in Google News searches (many non-English IMCs remained in the search). Google News described the term "Zionazi" as a "degrading, hateful slur" and refused to index the Bay Area IMC because it had appeared there; SF Bay Area Indymedia agreed that it "could be considered hate speech"[17]. This spawned a petition which sought to promise that content the Indymedia community finds offensive will be moderated from the front page as a matter of editorial policy. IMCs were still included in normal Google web searches. As of October 2004, IMC articles were restored to Google News searches.

Indymedia servers seizures

Indymedia has had interactions with authorities in more than one country. For example, on October 7, 2004, several of IMC's servers based in the United Kingdom at Rackspace in London were temporarily seized pursuant to a court order, disabling about 20 IMC websites which were hosted there. Proponents of Indymedia will counter these seizures as unconstitutional or unwarranted, while authorities have cited legal concerns to explain their actions. However, Electronic Frontier Foundation has documented the unconstitutional nature of the server seizure at [2]

Seizure of servers by the FBI

On October 7, 2004, the FBI seized the servers 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). 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[18].

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[19] [20]. The documents revealed that the government never officially demanded the computer servers -- the subpoena to Rackspace only requested server log files. This contradicted previous statements by the web host that it took the servers offline because the government had demanded the hardware. Thus, it is unclear whether it correct to say the servers were seized by the FBI. The documents also contradicted Rackspace's claim that it had been ordered by the court not to discuss publicly the government's demand.

The following paragraphs portrait the facts prior to the unsealing of the documents.

The seized servers were returned on October 13, 2004.

A statement by Rackspace [21] 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.

AFP reported FBI spokesman Joe Parris[22], 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.[23]

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 [24], 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. [25]

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 [26]. Criticism was also voiced by European civil liberties organisation Statewatch [27] and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)[28].

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 Italian minister of justice, Roberto Castelli, has refused further details. In November 2003, 17 members of parliament belonging to the extreme right wing, self-described "post-fascist" Alleanza Nazionale (AN), including Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, had demanded that Indymedia be shut down. A senior AN member and government official had announced the co-operation with US authorities (AN was a member of the Italian coalition government), and AN spokesman Mario Landolfi welcomed the FBI's seizure of the Indymedia servers. Left-wing Italian politicians denounced the move and called for an investigation. [29]

Bristol Server Seizure

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. [30] 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, [31] the police proceeded with the seizure and a member of the Bristol Indymedia group was arrested [32]. Indymedia was supported in this matter by the National Union of Journalists, Liberty and Privacy International, along with others.

This incident ended several months later with no charges being brought by the police and the equipment returned.

Other Legal Attacks - IMC UK

In 2005, Indymedia UK was threatened with a libel action by the US arms company EDO Corporation, for publishing articles accusing their UK branch EDO (UK) of EDO MBM Technology Ltd (who supply the US, UK, and Israel armed forces) of being 'warmongers'. Their lawyers withdrew the threat at about the same time (Feb 2005) that the McLibel Two won the right to Legal Aid in the European Court of Human Rights, setting a new precedent in favour of defendants in libel cases brought by corporations against individuals and activist groups.

EDO MBM then launched a further High Court lawsuit against the protest group Smash EDO[3] in April 2005, under anti-stalker laws, presenting as evidence articles that had been posted anonymously on Indymedia UK, including items that some believe were actually posted by employees of the company to fabricate evidence of harassment. Although a controversial interim injunction was imposed on this evidence, the suit collapsed without reaching a trial in early 2006, losing the company millions of dollars after a year long court battle, and the resignation of the Managing Director of EDO MBM David Jones. See EDO Corporation for more details.

Assaults on Indymedia journalists

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A Greek riot policeman allegedly attacking an Indymedia photographer with baton reversed aiming to injure rather than to repel.


In July, 2001 at the 27th G8 summit in Genoa, Indymedia journalists and others were seriously assaulted at the Diaz school where Indymedia had set up a temporary journalism center and radio station. In an ongoing trial, 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, A further 45 state officials, including police officers, prison guards and doctors, were charged with physically and mentally abusing demonstrators and journalists held in a detention centre in the nearby town of Bolzaneto. Video evidence from Indymedia and from the video activist group Undercurrents, is being used as key evidence for the prosecution.

On June 1, 2003, Indymedia journalist Guy Smallman was seriously injured by a police grenade [33] [34] in Geneva. He was covering protests against the G8 summit in nearby Evian for Indymedia and Image Sans Frontière.

On June 9, 2003, Alejandro Goldín, a photographer for Indymedia Argentina was assaulted by Federal Police officers while covering an incident between police and factory workers at the Brukman textile factory in Buenos Aires. [35] Although Goldín identified himself as press and showed his credentials, police tried to smash his equipment. Goldín was beaten on the head with a shotgun, shoved to the ground and kicked repeatedly by officers.

On May 19, 2005, two videographers were roughed up by the Houston Police Department's Mounted Patrol during the Halliburton Shareholders Meeting - both videographers were contributors to Houston Indymedia. Both videographers were charged with assault on a police officer which was fabricated since mainstream media from KTRK-TV (ABC13), KPRC-TV (Local 2 Houston), and KHOU-TV (Channel 11 Houston) provided the Harris County District Attorney's office video footage that the videographers were exonerated of the assault charges. Subsequently, a townhall meeting was held at the University of Houston main campus in response to the alleged police abuse where HPD Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo was present, alongside a police sergeant from Special Operations. Mayor Bill White and members of the Houston City Council were invited, but a staff member from the Office of Houston City Controller Annise Parker showed up since a member of HPD's Citizens Review Committee was present. One photographer who photographed the HPD Mounted Patrol jumping their horses on the sidewalk had two of his pictures used in the Houston Press (the anonymous photographer would photograph the anti-KKK rally in Tomball, TX on 6.11.05 that prompted his retirement from photojournalism). It is alleged that Scott Parkin was rowdy when he shoved police barricades (as seen by a photographer) right before relocating to Australia and later deported in September 2005.

On June 20, 2005, Ernesto Torres, a journalist with Indymedia Rosario and Free Air Community Radio, was assaulted [4] by members of the pro-government group Movimiento Barrios de Pie, while covering a march in opposition to the regime of the Argentinian president Néstor Kirchner.

Brad Will shot in Mexico

Main article: Brad Will


On October 27, 2006, New York-based journalist 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. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, however, claimed the men may have been local police. Reporters Without Borders condemened the actions of the Mexican government in allowing the accused to go free.[36] Protesters also allege that the men were police and not local residents. Associated Press initially alleged that the protesters also had guns, describing the conflict as a "shootout".[37]

Print Projects

There have been a number of print-based projects under the Indymedia banner, including short-run papers and longer-running newspapers.

New York City IMC has produced The Indypendent, a bi-weekly "free paper for free people" for over five years. Winner of numerous awards from the Independent Press Association (unrelated media organization) for original writing, photography, design and art, the Indypendent is currently the largest circulation "underground" paper in North America. During the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC, the Indypendent printed hundreds of thousands of copies and briefly attained a mass circulation. Contentious issues have included standardized editorial practice, commercial advertising and a genuine diversity of perspectives rare among radical publications.

Short-run papers for protests have included the Unconvention during the Philadelphia "R2K" protests during the Republican National Convention in 2000.

Other newspapers include the Bay Area's Fault Lines, and papers in Connecticut, Maine, Baltimore and St. Louis in the United States, and W(((i)))ndy in Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Software

Indymedia sites run on a number of Free software platforms, many developed especially for the purpose.
  • DadaIMC
  • Mir
  • Oscait
  • Active
  • SF-Active
  • Activismo
  • Drupal
  • Plone

See also

References

1. ^ [5]Indymedia global home page}}
2. ^ Anonymous, "June 18th 1999 Carnival Against Capital", in Days of Dissent!, 2004, accessed online at [6]
3. ^ See IMC "Principles of Unity"
4. ^ [7]
5. ^ [8]
6. ^ [9]
7. ^ [10]
8. ^ [11]
9. ^ [12]
10. ^ e.g. Climate Camp pages on UK Indymedia
11. ^ I don't have a source for this, need links to left criticism of IMCs
12. ^ Indy-Fundamentalism: Its Root Causes and Structure
13. ^ There is an article about this somewhere....
14. ^ [13]
15. ^ example of Newswire posting using the term "Zionazi forces"
16. ^ example of Newsire posting using the term "Zionazi"
17. ^ [14]
18. ^ Indymedia report
19. ^ EFF Statement
20. ^ John Lettice, US court files reveal Italian link to Indymedia server grab, The Register, 3rd August 2005, accessed 25th August 2005
21. ^ Quoted in FBI Seizes IMC Servers in the UK, accessed 25th August 2007
22. ^ News website Indymedia says FBI seized server
23. ^ MP Richard Allan's website
24. ^ [15]
25. ^ Indymedia's page on the FBI seizure
26. ^ "More Intimidation Than Crime-Busting" Says IFJ As Police Target Independent Media Network, IFJ press release, 8th October 2004, accessed 28th August 2007
27. ^ Was the seizure of Indymedia's servers in London unlawful or did the UK government collude? , Statewatch Press release, October 2004, accessed 25th August 2007
28. ^ FBI seizes Indymedia servers in the United Kingdom, bulletin, 8th October 2004, accessed 28th august 2007
29. ^ Damiano Valgolio, The Censorers Trace leads to Rome and Zurich, Junge Welt, 11th October 2004, cited at Indymedia to U.S., U.K., Swiss and Italian Authorities: "Hands Off Our Websites", accessed 25th August 2007
30. ^ John Leyden, Legal row after police seize Bristol Indymedia server, The Register, 28th June 2005
31. ^ PRESS RELEASE : Bristol Indymedia Server Threatened, Bristol IMC press release, 24th June 2005, accessed 25th August 2007
32. ^ Indymedia server seized in raid, BBC News, 28 June 2005, accessed 25th August 2007
33. ^ Photographer injured by riot police in Geneva, NUJ report, June 2 2003, accessed 25th August 2007
34. ^ New Pics: G8-"Rabbit Hunt" on Guy Smallman, Switzerland IMC, 10th June 2006, accessed 25th August 2007
35. ^ CJFE demands invstigation into attacks on Argentinean journalists, open letter to Argentina's amabassador in Canada, June 13th 2003, accessed 25th August 2007
36. ^ Two suspects in cameraman Brad Will’s murder freed for lack of evidence, RSF press release, 5th December 2006, accessed 25th August 2007
37. ^ Yahoo! news report on Oaxaca uprising

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