Guardian/UK article 041011:


US seizes webservers from independent media sites

Rachel Shabi

American authorities have shut down 20 independent media centres by seizing their British-based webservers. On Thursday a court order was issued to Rackspace, an American-owned web hosting company in Uxbridge, Middlesex, forcing it to hand over two servers used by Indymedia, an international media network which covers of social justice issues and provides a \x93newswire", to which its users contribute.

The websites affected by the seizure span 17 countries. It is unclear why, or to where, the servers have been taken. The FBI, speaking to the French AFP, acknowledged that a subpoena had been issued but said this was at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities.

\x93It is not an FBI operation," said its spokesman, Joe Parris. Rackspace told Indymedia that it had been served with a court order under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, under which countries assist each other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering It is unclear why such a treaty would apply in this context. A UK Indymedia journalist said: \x93The authorities may just be using this as a trawling exercise. We don\x92t know." It is also unclear if the Home Office was involved.

The Metropolitan police said it was not aware of the move. The UK Indymedia site is now working, because it was backed up on another server, unlike others which are still shut down.

One of the servers was to be used to stream web radio coverage of the European Social Forum conference in London next week.

Aidan White, the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, condemned the \x93intolerable and intrusive" action.

Tim Gopsill of the NUJ said: \x93If the security services of the UK or US can just walk in and take away a server, then there is no freedom of expression.\x94

This is an article from german leftist newspaper "Junge Welt" ("Young World"), published Oct 11th, 2004

originally written in german by Damiano Valgolio, Rome (Italy)

translated to english by AlsteR


The Censorers Trace leads to Rome and Zurich Cutoff of Indymedia: FBI agent speaks of "legal aid". Investigations against the internet portal running in Switzerland and Italy. Neo fascists said to be the driving force.

Three days after central servers of international news portal indymedia have been seized, the background remains obscure. It seems, however, that criminal proceedings against media activists in Italy and Switzerland are the cause for the cloak-and-dagger operation. Past thursday night, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had ordered confiscation of host systems of internet provider Rackspace in San Antonio, Texas (USA) and London (UK). Along these, dozens of national Indymedia pages were connected. Since then the leftist online media is severely handicapped across about 20 countries world-wide. In many countries, amongst which are Italy and Great Britain, Indymedia has completely vanished from the internet.

Last weekend, the FBI has again announced that the seizure was not done on their own initiative but carried out within the scope of a "legal aid" for foreign authorities. "The request came from Switzerland and Italy", senior FBI offical Joe Parris stated towards french news agency AFP.

Meanwhile, Switzerland is maintaining a low profile. Daniel Zapelli, senior federal prosecutor of the Genf canton, only confirmed that ascertainments against Indymedia. It is intended to criminalize the coverage in connection with the protests against the G8 meeting in Evian in summer of 2003.

Back then, images of two plainclothes policemen who were involved in a media center escalade had been published on the swiss spin-off of the leftist internet platform. Of both executives, who were said to have organized riots as agent provocateurs in the city center of Geneve, names and addresses were published, too. Marc Olderlin, the attorney of the two swiss members of the secret police, acknowledged contacts between swiss federal authorities and the FBI, reports italian newspaper "Il Manifesto". "But, as far as I know, there has not been a request for detention of the Indymedia servers", the lawyer says.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutor of Bologna (IT) Marina Plazzi stated that she is investigating against Indymedia because of a possible "support of terrorism". Apparently this is about supposedly positive contributions after an impact on italian soldiers in iraqi city of Nassirija past november. "We asked the FBI for help along the italian department of justice", federal prosecutor Plazzi states. The italian minister of justice, Roberto Castelli, so far refused to speak out on the proceeding of the FBI.

Clearly less reticiant are the parlamentarian representatives of the italian government parties. On sunday, Mario Landolfi, spokesman of post fascist "Aleanza Nazionale" (AN), announced the seizure of the computers served "the enforcement of the law". Already in november, 17 AN delegates including the granddaugther of Benito Mussolini had demanded the close-down of Indymedia in a consolidated statement. Back then, Paolo Valentino, state secretary in the department of justice and also a member of AN, had announced a possible cooperation with the USA.

In contrary, severe criticism on the repression against the leftist internet portal rooted from the italian opposition. Left wing party member and assitant chairman of the commission of justice of the italian parliament Paolo Cento spoke of a "bad , authoritarian incident" and demanded an immediate comment of the government. Meanwhile, communist E.U. (European Union) delegate Marco Rizzo announced he will add the incident to the EU parliament agenda.

Alternative Network's Internet Servers Confiscated

Originally published by IPS Inter Press Service News Agency,

Stefania Milan

LONDON, Oct 9 (IPS) - Agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Thursday seized two Internet servers in Britain that host the web sites of the global news network Indymedia. Two days later there was still no clarification of why the computers were confiscated or who is holding them.

The confiscation came just days before the European Social Forum, the region's major civil society gathering, in which Indymedia is to have strong presence.

Indymedia -- as the Independent Media Centres are known -- is a network of more than 140 national and thematic ''open-publishing'' web sites where independent activists or journalists can publish their news articles, stories and other material online, with no editorial filter.

Created in 1999 to report on the protests against the World Trade Organisation's ministerial conference in the U.S. city of Seattle, Indymedia has since become the main news source of the anti-globalisation movement, continuing to serve as an alternative to mainstream media outlets worldwide.

The two servers seized on Thursday were located in the London offices of the U.S.-based company Rackspace, one of the network's hosting providers. On Saturday it was not yet clear why the computer hardware had been seized or who is now holding it.

More than 20 national web sites -- some of the countries affected are Uruguay, France, Italy, Brazil, England and Germany -- were out of service for at least 24 hours.

Most of those sites have been reinstated using substitute Internet servers -- but Indymedia activists fear that a great deal of digital material may have been lost.

The seizure came just one week before the start of the third edition of the European Social Forum (ESF) in London, Oct. 15-17.

In parallel to the ESF, Indymedia promoted a four-day event on ''communication rights and tactical media production'' in collaboration with other organisations such as the Association for Progressive Communication and the World Association of Christian Communications.

''This attack against Indymedia is an affront to communication rights and the right to privacy,'' said an Indymedia activist organising the European Forum on Communication Rights, in London Oct. 14.

''Rackspace UK complied with a legal order,'' the company declared in a statement, saying that it ''is acting as a good corporate citizen and is cooperating with international law enforcement authorities.'' The company did not provide any more details.

''It is not an FBI operation. Through a legal assistance treaty, the subpoena was on behalf of a third country,'' FBI spokesman Joe Parris told Agence France-Presse.

Apparently, the request for the FBI action was submitted by government agencies in Switzerland and Italy. The FBI acted in compliance with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).

The MLAT establishes procedures for signatory countries to collaborate in investigations regarding international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.

''But these allegations have no relation with Indymedia activities,'' an Indymedia activist who preferred to remain anonymous told IPS.

''We do not understand why the FBI has acted against Indymedia, which is an open communication project organised through public meetings and mailing lists. We think there must be some hidden reason behind,'' said the activist.

The seizure triggered strong reactions by many civil society groups around the world.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called for an investigation into the ''intolerable and intrusive'' action that silenced the web sites.

''More intimidation than crime-busting,'' IFJ general-secretary Aidan White said. ''The seizing of computers and the high profile nature of this incident suggests that someone wanted to stifle these independent voices in journalism.''

According to the IFJ, the confiscation might be related to a court case heard Sep. 30 in the U.S. city of San Jose, California, against some Indymedia activists who denounced the web-based flaws in the electronic voting machines to be used in the Nov. 2 U..S. presidential election.

But it is not the first time that Indymedia has suffered such attacks. A month ago the FBI asked Indymedia to take down a photo of undercover Swiss police published on the Indymedia Nantes (France) site.

Indymedia was attacked during the protests against the meeting of the world's eight richest countries (G8) in Genoa, in July 2001, when the Italian riot police damaged its media centre.

''In the seized servers there were all the information related to Genoa events. We are very worried,'' Laura Tartarini from the Genoa Legal Forum said. The Legal Forum is the group of lawyers set up before the G8 meeting to deal with legal consequences of the protests.

Together with the Legal Forum, some Italian Indymedia activists are currently examining the videos recorded during the protests to help those activists accused of vandalism now being processed in Genoa court.

''Ironically this violation of the freedom of speech comes while the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, begun in 2003 in Geneva and to be concluded in Tunis in 2005, is still ongoing,'' said Italian senator Fiorello Cortiana.

-- AndiE - 10 Oct 2004 -- AlsteR - 11 Oct 2004
Topic revision: r2 - 11 Oct 2004, AlsteR
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