Indymedia Siezure Search

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On October 4, 2004, Rackspace, a web-hosting provider
based in San Antonio, was issued a secret court order, apparently
in accordance with the International Mutual Legal
Assistance Tr e a t y, that required them to surrender two
servers. The seizure took offline more than 20 IMC websites
and more than 10 streaming radio feeds. The order prevents
the company from divulging what authority seized the
servers, or for what purpose.
In coordination with the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
Indymedia is aggressively defending itself (and thus all independent
journalism) from this latest state activity that effectively
stifles the free exchange of ideas.
In late October, the EFF and the Urbana-Champaign IMC
filed a motion to unseal the secret US federal court order that
led to the seizure. The motion seeks to discover which governments
and parties are responsible for the seizure, and the
reasons. In their motion, EFF attorneys argue “the public and
the press have a clear and compelling interest in discovering
under what authority the government was able unilaterally to
prevent Internet publishers from exercising their First
Amendment rights.” They argue further that secret court
orders circumvent due process and deny an avenue for
redress. The motion is available for viewing at
“When a secret order results in the unconstitutional silencing
of media, the public has a right to know what happened,”
said Kurt Opsahl, EFF Staff A t t o r n e y. “Freedomof the press is
an essential part of the FirstAmendment, and our government
must show it had a compelling state interest to order such an
extreme intrusion to the rights of the publisher and the public.”
“Silencing Indymedia with a secret order is no different
than censoring any other news website, whether it’s USA
Today or your local paper,” said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney.
This case is complicated by the fact that it is international
in nature. Thus, Indymedia and the free speech groups rallying
to its defense may be forced to pursue redress in a number
of national court systems with disparate rules on search and
seizure. Prosecutors in Switzerland and Italy have admitted
pursuing investigations related to Indymedia articles but
denied requesting the seizure.
The apparent fact that the US government was in some
way involved should be troubling. Thus far, no US agencies
have taken responsibility for the seizures. This paper has
reported on various government repressions of independent
media in the past, and that such a thing may have originated
in our nominal democracy should be troubling not only to
media advocates, but the at-large citizen.
One thing is for certain: the disruption of press activities
by the US or European governments was a decision taken far
too lightly by the perpetrating parties. Assuming the public
ever determines exactly who leveled this assault on independent
media, they must be held accountable.
The events surrounding the seizure of servers hosting various
forums for independent journalism have been surprisingly
well covered by corporate media, including a number of
AP reports. As usual, however, the best way to stay informed
about news generally ignored by corporate media is through
your local IMC. Visit the UCIMC website (
for developments in this ongoing free-press crisis.

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