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Independent Media Center

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Independent Media Center (Indymedia)
Imclogo2.gif
Indymedia logo
Type Open publishing
Format Online
Owner(s) None
Founded November 24, 1999
Language English, Spanish, Greek, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Hebrew and Arabic
Headquarters Various
Website Indymedia.org

The Independent Media Center (also known as Indymedia or IMC) is an open publishing network of journalist collectives 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. Several local branches of the network have been raided by law enforcement over the years.

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Transcription

»» Good evening. And welcome to the William McGowan Theater here at if National Archives, whether you're here the theater or joining us on YouTube station. I'm David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. I'm pleased you could be with us for tonight's discussion of independent media and the rule of law. This program is presented in partnership with the International Bar Association, with the generous support from the IBA Foundation, and we thank them for their support. Before we get started I would like to tell you about two other events coming up later this month. On Saturday June 16 at 3 p.m. in collaboration with AFI docs we'll host the world premier of the Cold Blue a new documentary film about World War II, B—17 bombers. The film uses archival footage from our holdings as well as commentary from some of the last surviving World War II B—17 pilots. On Wednesday, June 20th at 7 p.m. join us for citizen engagement in America's history a bi—partisan discussion on how citizen movements have influenced policymakers. Panelists will include a teacher at Margie Stoneman Douglass High School as long with one of her student, former and current members of Congress, and others. To learn more about all of these other public programs and exhibits consult our monthly calendar of events online at archives.gov, check out our website or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You'll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities. Another way to get more involved in the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation.  The Foundation supports all of our education and outreach activities and there are applications for membership outside also. A little known secret I keep telling everyone that will listen, no one has ever been turned down for membership in the National Archives Foundation. (Laughter). Free press and the rule of law has been linked since the founding of our nation. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The supreme law of the land, guarantees freedom of speech and of the press. Upstairs on the rotunda you can read the original words in the Bill of Rights written on parchment in 1789. Down the street these words at Newseum are literally written in stone on the building's exterior. The court and legislative records in the National Archives contain numerous challenges and defenses of the first amendment. The first challenge came just seven years after the Bill of Rights was ratified and Congress passed the 1798 Sedition act. In the more the 200 years since these rules have been tested. These rules have always endured we'll start the discussion on independent media and the rule of law. Tonight's moderator is Homer Moyer, former appointee in both democratic and republican administrations. He is the founder and Chair of CEELI Institute an independent rule of law Institute in Prauge, a member of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Miller. Andrea Mitchell is the chief foreign affairs correspondent of NBC news, anchor of Andrea Mitchell reports, former chief White House and former chief congressional correspondent from NBC. Lee LDevine is senior counsel at Ballad Sphar one of the leading First Amendment lawyers, Author of News Gathering and the Law and a professor at George Washington Law School. Jennifer Rubin is a journalist and lawyer author of Right Turn the blog for the Washington Post and has previously worked for Commentary, the Weekly Standard and, before becoming a journalist she was a lawyer in Los Angeles, please join me in welcoming our panel to the stage. (Applause) David, thank you very much. Greetings to all of you. And welcome to Preserving a Free Society, which is a series of webcast on the rule of law and the role it plays in maintaining a free society. My name is Homer Moyer.  It's my privilege to moderate this series of programs. And on behalf of the International Bar Association to welcome all of you here this evening. Our apologies for a slight delay for those of you who are in the here in the audience. You should know that sports mania has seized the city. (Laughter) And so, we have unusual traffic. But we're delighted to be underway. For this conversation, I'm also very pleased to welcome and reintroduce our distinguished panel. To my immediate left, Jennifer Rubin as you heard is with the Washington Post. She does a blog, brings what is described as the center—right perspective to the news. She's a contributor to MSNBC. And as you heard, before being a journalist was a lawyer. Lee Levine is with the Ballard Sphar law firm here. He is well—known to the world of journalism, often referred to as the "dean of the the First Amendment bar." The author of legal treatis on news gathering and the law. And an adjunct professor. And Andrea Mitchell, we all know, NBC. And NBC's chief correspondent has been NBC's chief White House correspondent. And congressional correspondent. She is the host of a one—hour daily show on domestic and foreign policy. And is the author of a book entitled "talking back." So welcome to all of you. Thank you for being here. Thank all of you for being here. And thank to the National Archives for hosting this. As this is about the rule of law as well as the independent media, let's spend a moment on what we mean by that term when we use it. It's a term that's been defined in a number of different ways by different people, but let me offer a working definition for the purposes of our discussion tonight. And that is that this phrase the rule of law is really a shorthand term. It's shorthand for a number of principles that describe how societies are governed. Although the definitions vary, the principles are common to almost every definition of this term. They are these: That the laws apply equally to all persons, and importantly, that the government itself is not above the law. That the powers of government are separated and subject to checks and balances and limitations. The judiciary is independent and impartial. Laws are enacted openly and transparently. Those laws protect the fundamental rights of all individuals. And our public officials are public servants and are not corrupt. So with that, as background, Lee, let me turn to you, appropriate context for this discussion, I think is probably our national charter, the U.S. Constitution. Interestingly, the very first paragraph of our Bill of Rights provides for freedom of the press, stating that Congress may pass no law abridging freedom of the press. So Lee, what in the 1700s prompted our founding father to give this concept that much prominence. What were they concerned about at that time? »» Well, there's no consensus on that frankly. There's two sets of lively debates that remain ongoing for over 200 years on that question. Some people say it was very narrow. That the intention was simply to codify what was the law in England that the government can not prevent publications in advance, what we call prior restraints. But that any other kind of laws abridging the freedom of speech or the press were perfectly okay. And base based on that congress passed the Alien and Sedition Act shortly after the Bill of Rights and the Constitution were ratified. Some 200 years later in the famous case of New York Times vs Sullivan Justice Brennan looked back at all that historical evidence and said - no actually - the historical record tells us that the framers actually meant the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment specifically was to extend far beyond prior restraints and basically, protect the ability of the press and the public to criticize government officials and to criticize government without being held responsible, either in criminal penalties or civil lawsuits or anything like that. And he deemed it the central meaning of the First Amendment, and found support for that in the fact that right after the Alien and Sedition act was passed, people were convicted under it, Jefferson becomes elected President, he pardoned all the people who had been convicted under the Act, the acts were allowed to lapse. And the subsequent judgment of history is that's what the First Amendment means it's a much broader protection than simply prior restraint. »» Thank you for that background. Obviously many countries do not have that same broad protection of freedom of the press. Andrea you've before all over the world reporting including in countries that do not enjoy freedom of the press. Today there are over 250 journalists in jail, in Turkey, there have been arrests in China, Egypt. What have you seen in countries where this protection is lacking? »» Certainly we have seen In Turkey most prominently in Egypt, in China, in other totalitarian regimes where there is no real press freedom. Certainly Russia is a significant abuser of freedom of the press in terms of the sheer danger of being a journalist in any of these societies. Not only being in jail, but being murdered on the streets outside the Kremlin. And what the United States has tried to do traditionally is uphold this as a essential American value. That is promulgated by our diplomats everywhere they go. One way they do this most importantly in every administration that I've covered up until recently is by bringing the press corps with the Secretary of State, especially when he go Beijing, when he goes to Turkey and holding a press conference for local, regional and American supporters in each of these countries. If the host country will not participate, the host foreign minister, to promulgate this as well as inviting journalists from emerging countries, countries from conflict zones have participated with State department leaders, with Iraqi, Pakistani journalists. Being trained on how to cover your government. And the State Department is very engaged in this. We have unfortunately seen a diminution of this in recent months the year and a half or so. Not the daily press briefing we were used to not traveling with the Secretary of State. We're looking to see with secretary Pompeo, whether as he announced today he's going to be leaving Singapore to brief the allies, Japanese and Korean, in Seoul and then onto Beijing, he's taking a symbolic, two or three journalists with him, but not the larger Group of 13—17 people that every Secretary of State since Henry Kissenger brought with him. This is a core principle we really need to invest in and be aware of as citizens as journalists as advocates of the first amendment. »» Jennifer, how do journalists think about this core principle?  Does it affect the way journalists do their jobs?  Or do we at this point sort of take this for granted? »» I certainly hope we don't take it for granted. Going back the something Andrea said which is really at the core of what we talk you about when we talk about the rule of law. If things she described are not government refraining from repressing the press. They are... principles of access, of transparency, of inclusiveness. We do that because governments, citizens see the value in informing our citizens and in holding government accountable. And to do that, we need not only restrictions on government, but affirmative obligations on government. And that's why when you see complaints from the press about a photographer's access, about the President leaving the pool without advising the press where he's going, all of these are mechanisms by which we enforce the principle that the press, the only non——governmental entity really that's mentioned in the Bill of Rights, has an integral role in our government. Now, it's an interesting question about how reporters view constitutional issues and free speech and freedom of the press. I think it is fair to say that as a country, we have assumed a certain baseline for governmental behavior and protection for the press. And I think if we have learned anything in the last few years, both internationally and domestically, it is that those things can not be taken for granted. They must be reinforced. They must be debated. They must be fought over. And when you see reports as we recently did from Freedom House which is a non—partisan human rights organization that tracks the decline in almost every sector of the globe of free speech and identifies part of the problem, the challenge and the really slurs that come at the press from the American government, that is a problem. And I think it is not a problem that's going to be solved by the press. It's not a problem that's going to be solved by the government. It's a problem that has to be addressed by every one of us. And Franklin did say, you a republic if you can keep it. And we are now being put to the test. »» You've all touched a little bit already on the connections between free press and rule of law. Coincidently just this week there was a op ed piece by Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis in which she said although her dad did not always like the press, he called the press, one of the pillars of our freedom, something that distinguishes us from dictatorships and the like. Lee, is that fair? »» I think it's entirely fair. You know, people have a lot of theories about why it is we have freedom of the press. And it seem to me most legal scholars have kind of agreed that the main reason is because without it, we could not be a democracy. The whole concept of democracy is that the citizens govern themselves. That they elect representatives on their behalf. The government works for us. We don't —— we're not subservient to the government as in a monarchy. And there's a famous constitutional law scholar Homer you may have take an course from in law school named Charles Black who said, you know, even if there wasn't a First Amendment that had freedom of the press in it, the structure of our Constitution would require that there be freedom of the press. Because otherwise, the citizen governors, the citizens who actually are in charge of the government wouldn't be able to freely inform themselves to be able to instruct their elected representatives on how they want to be governed. So it inherent in the structure. And just kind of the exclamation point is that we put it in the Bill of Rights. »» Well, speaking structurally. Andrea in our last program, we discussed the three branches of government. The separation of powers and checks and balances. The press as you know is sometimes referred to as the "fourth estate" implying that, in some respects is like a fourth branch of the government. And that it has similar influence. My question for you, you may want to add to what Lee already said, but what's the —— in this system, what's the right relationship between the press and the three branches of our government? »» I think that the correct relationship from my perspective would be an appropriately respectful adversarial relationship. And I say that constructively. I think it's healthy for the government as well as for the public to have us in a questioning mode, in a watchdog mode, in a skeptical mode which means to report on things that work well and things that don't work well. That doesn't turn us all into investigative reporters and Woodward and Bernstein because we're not all suited to do those jobs. But it does mean that we should approach claims by the government based on what we know of a particular official, and of his or her track record. Should we ascribe credibility to the person?  Everything the best intended officials can make mistakes wittingly or unwittingly. I covered eight years of Ronald Reagan, was among the most interesting challenging assignments I've ever had. For one reason, it was the Cold War, and then the beginning of the end of the Cold War with the first Gorbechev Reagan summit in 1985 and the subsequent move towards arms agreements. I was fascinated by arms controls and nuclear issues. But also because it wasn't always accessibility, it was a challenge because of the programmatic nature and the orchestration of that particular White House, the first television presidency, in a way. The way he would use the news conference, and then use the big rally. That said, we did have access. We had access to officials. We had a number of top officials and cabinet members who would be talking to us on the record, not on the record. And it didn't mean that we always knew what was going on. Because we all learned about the Iran Contra scandal when attorney general Meese came into the briefing room and announced it. None of us had uncovered any of it. It was an extraordinary period, I have never known a President that enjoyed the press coverage not even the most media friendly. Because by the end of four or eight years we are an extreme annoyance to put it kindly. (Laughter) I can remember being stared down by Bill Clinton the first couple of months when I asked him about don't ask, don't tell something he did not want to talk about. I'm in the East Room it's very intimidating to standing and ask a question of the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States and get chewed out. No one enjoys that. I've been called by chiefs of staff and yelled at after news conferences. And that's all very intimidating to say the least. But that's the role that we should have. That's the appropriate role. And I don't mean to be —— I try to be respectful and not... not have attitude or a chip on my shoulder. But I think that that's a very important value. And one quick anecdote, I was traveling with Condoleezza Rice to Sudan then going into Darfur, and in the news she insisted her staff inssisted that her American State Department travel pool get into the meeting with the dictator Sudan, in Kartoom. And I asked a question and his strong man grabbed me by the arm and pulled me by shoulder and dragged me out of the room. And, Condoleezza Rice refused to go forward in that trip without getting a formal apology to the United States to her and to me on behalf, demanding it on behalf of a journalist. And wait it was not because of any relationship we had, it was because of the appropriate relationship between the Secretary of State and the free press. »» Fascinating. Jennifer, Marty Barron the editor of your paper the Washington Post,, interesting statement on the responsibility of journalists. I want to read it. He said "first, reporters are not stenographers. Rather than just writing down what people say, their job is "to find out what really happened, to dig, to look beneath the surface, to be accurate but also to tell people what the truth is". So how do you go about living up to that standard, particularly, your job is informing the public. But there are special challenges to doing that, vis—a'—vis the government. What are some of those? »» Well, to begin with I'm on the editorial side. My boss Is Fred Hyatt as opposed to Marty Barron on the news side, that's one of the most important principles in our profession, it is a profession, it cultivates certain behaviors and ethics that we try to live up to. In my experience, gets even more complicated. Not only do I write opinion, whatever comes into my head, but I try to base that on reporting. I try to go out and interview people, find out what is going on as you say. Because our job, I think is not maybe somewhat, but it really isn't to entertain and to let you know what Jennifer Rubin or Andrea Mitchell or anybody else thinks. It's to give you the best sense that we can get about what is going on. Now in Andrea's case, in the Pulitzer prize winning journalists that work with the Washington Post, the New York Times in many instances they get no information whatsoever from our government, or they get misinformation. And they're job is not to ignore that, because sometimes the fact that the government is not telling the truth is part of the story. But rather to cultivate sources, and to obtain access so that they can find as you say, the underlying truth. That is to put it mildly an enormous challenge, particularly in an unusual administration, particularly in an administration where you would talk to 20 people and get 20 different views on what is going on. So I think the critical aspect from back to our prior discussion is, what does the public need to know in order to be an informed citizen. What do they need to know about what the government is doing not merely the bad things or the scandals. But the actual policies that are being implemented. What does American policy overseas or domestically mean for them and for the world?  They can not be everywhere. We can not be everywhere. We rely on our colleagues. We rely on journalists and bureaus overseas as well as domestic bureaus we have to be the eyes ears of the public who, in most cases, are not able the figure things out and delve deep enough to determine really what is going on. So when I think we think of an adverserial press it in terms of a scandal a Watergate scandal or Iran Contra scandal. But much of it is simply reporting on the day to day application of government policy, it's interaction with the people, whether the government is doing what the government says it is doing and what effects its policies have on ordinary people. We cover the government because it's important for the citizenry. We don't cover the government for the government's sake. We cover the government for the public's benefit. And I think without maintaining both a eye on the government, but also on the population that is reading, our audiences, our readerships, we would lose our place in the democracy. We would lose our function. And we would lose really our reason for being. We all love to read each other's work and watch each other on TV. But that's really not the point. The point is for all of you to read and to form opinions and to be able to confront your elected representatives. »» As you have said in a sense, the major news outlets, the major newspaper, the major networks really do serve as the eyes and ears of the rest of the country in terms of what's going on in Washington. That's a fairly awesome responsibility. Andrea, in doing that, do you think folks in the profession think in terms of the rule of law?  Is that a concept they bring to bear on their day—to—day jobs? »» Most of the whom I know, the people in the mainstream media is pejorative term by many, people who do conventional reporting, the major networks, the major newspapers very much think of the rule of law. I'm going to be writing a story for tomorrow morning's Today Show, we've been working for several days on a story that will break 4:30 tomorrow morning. We've submitted it to our attorney in New York who had made edits and asked for clarifications for sourcing. And then when I finish and go back tonight and finish writing it, i will resubmit it to our lawyer, there's always someone on duty at 30 Rock that will go over it again and ask for more clarification. Particularly right now when we are so much on the firing line if you will, and there is so much disparagement of media, fair or unfair we have to be above reproach. Whereas two sources used to be adequate, that's no longer the case. That's because many decisions are made in a solitary fashion and can change very quickly. You can not take to the bank what one, two or four White House officials might say, or other administration officials might say, because they might not know the thinking of the Commander in Chief, that's just this particular form of White House governance. So we have to be careful to be transparent, to explain to say according to two officials in this sector, you know, if it's not a on the record source. I agree that we are far too reliant on unnamed sources. That's another subject for consideration. But if we are going to use an anonymous source we have to be as precise as possible, as descriptive as possible, to explain to our viewers and our readers exactly how we've arrived at this information. Then it's all sent to the standards department for fairness then our legal department for accuracy and compliance with the rule of law. »» The first principle I mentioned, rule of law principle was the government itself is not above the law. Is it fair to describe the press's role, vis—a'—vis the government as in part a watchdog function?  Does that strike you as fair? »» I think that is fair. But there's also the role that is descriptive, what is this agency doing?  What is the immigration policy? What is the climate change policy?  And that's not always classically a watchdog function. That is more trying to explain to people what is in the Iran nuclear deal, I spent two years covering the negotiations. This is what the framers say, this is what the six parties have agreed to. This is how it is being criticized. This is how a subsequent administration is withdrawing from it. So that is not so much watchdog as basically —— »» Informing. »» Informing, information, absolutely. »» It's very interesting, a lot of what we do, I'm glad I went to law school frankly, so I can have —— I wouldn't recommend that clear track to others. (Laughter). »» I wish I had. —— »» —— is not only covering how the government interacts with the courts when the government is brought to the Court by a private citizen, or by an organization, or the government attempts to enforce or prosecute an individual or a corporation. But part of what our job now is to describe this push and pull, speaking of the rule of law that is going on between the executive branch and the judicial branch, and even more interesting within the executive branch. We have over many, many, decades grown up with a series of principles, custom, of norms of how the executive branch is supposed to interact with the Justice Department. Some of these were instituted after Watergate when it was perceived that the White House was using —— was using the investigative arms of the federal government in an improper fashion. But essentially there is a tension there between the Justice Department and the White House. And part of what our job, particularly now, more so I think than at any other time, is to explain what that tension is, what are the norms and the rules that we have grown up with?  How are they being violated? And what are the consequences for our democracy?  To what degree do we maintain a independent judiciary if a President engages in name calling with regard to the Court?  Does everyone get the same break from the government if the White House can reach into the Justice Department and direct it to prosecute or not to prosecute individuals depending upon partisan view points?  So it's not only that we operate within the rule of law, but that we have to cover the rule of law. And I don't think I remember another time in which part of our —— beat, as you will is covering the rule of law and what is happening to it. And that's true domestically and it is very much true internationally. I'll go back to Freedom House again in their most recent report, they documented that every country in central and south Europe, Southern Europe has seen a decline in basic freedoms over the last ten years. Every single one. And that should be something that alarms us and informs us about our own government and our own responsibilities. So I think that's a good reason to go to law school. But it's a good reason for the press to also exercise it's explanatory role, it's educational role, to explain some civics to the American people, and the operation of government. »» Andrea, you used the word "adversarial" earlier and the push and pull. It sounds at least part of the role is inherently that way. If I'm a senior public policy official and I'm describing a policy or an announcement, I'm going to put the best face on it that I can, a positive spin on it. A good journalist will probe and I take it from what you say, that really goes with the territory and should. You've written a book called "talking back" that may partially answer my question. But is that a good and healthy thing, if as you say, it's respectful? »» I think it is. I think it's healthy. We can veer off and lose our sense of balance. Then we have to self correct or be told, or have viewers write in and tell us that was snarky that was edgy, we don't like that. Or have editors or executives tell us that that was wrong. I remember back in 1984 doing a live interview in prime time on the network. We then ambassador of the United Nations about the contra war. And I just was so with my self importance and you know, madame ambassador Is this true?  We had a report from the region!  Supposedly exposing the CIA activity. And I demanded answers. And she just sat there. She didn't answer. And 30 seconds is a long time in live television. (Laughter) And she just swiveled back and forth in her chair, I knew she didn't have a stroke or something thank the God she was swiveling. Finally he said, I don't respond to lies. She was deafening. And as I always used to do back in that day it was big deal, prime time show, I got off the air, I called home and my mother got on the phone she said that was not your best moment (Laughter) I said, let me talk the dad. And she said, I don't think you better talk the your dad. (Laughter) So we all have our monitors. But we also have that internal monitor when we know we've gone too far. »» Lee, in this back and forth, are there any legal boundaries in is this really a matter of mutual respect and civility?  Or are there some gaurdrails here? »» It's interesting. There's a place between legal norms and just kind of operational norms. I'm thinking primarily of justice steward used to talk about the adversarial nature of the press, the government and the area of secrets, classified information, whatever. The press's job is to get that information. The government's job is to keep the press from getting that information. It's necessarily adversarial, what happens when the press succeeds the government fails and the press gets the information?  Well a technical reading of Espinage Act, you say a journalist who publishes classified information has violated the Act no journalist has ever been prosecuted for reporting about classified information about matters of public concern. Why?  Not because of any law, but because we had this general understanding, which I would say is analogous to the rule of law, that government officials respect that this is a vital function the press plays, the press recognizes there this is a awesome responsibility you better exercise it wisely and make judgments about is this sufficiently important that it overcomes the fact that the information is classified that the public needs to know this. Now, you know, we've had lapses over time. This agreement, this general understanding that has existed for decades during the George W. Bush administration the then attorney general said he wouldn't rule out prosecuting a journalist under the Espionage Act. The last Administration The Attorney General Holder said, publicly we will not prosecute journalists for doing their jobs. Current attorney general won't take that pledge. So that's troublesome. And it bespeak to not an erosion of the rule of law in the strict sense of what you define rule of law as, but it's the same spirit. It's a understanding of what it takes between a independent press and a responsible government to make everything work and it's falling apart. »» Could I just add, just one point is that there are very frequently conversations between managing editors of newspapers or network Presidents of news divisions with government officials saying, this is classified, this is sensitive, this is operational, you should not publish this. And there are occasionally negotiations or conversations, what would be safe?  What would not be dangerous to the government?  And sometimes there's a disagreement, a profound disagreement where the press publishes it. But there has been many instances where we do not. One of the wrong —— you know, many told stories is that Scotty Reston the famous New York Times the Washington bureau chief was so close to JFK that he had prior knowledge of the Bay of Pigs and did not report it. And, the President said afterwards he wished that someone had published and warned him against it. That maybe a powerful story. »» We just had an episode that speak to the hard choices with make. We both work for mainstream news outlets. But there's a whole universe out there that does not abide by the rules, does not look at the role in the same way. And we recently had it become known, let me put it that way, that the government under President Obama used a confidential source to reach out to a campaign. None of the major publications would use that individual's name, or even describe him in such a way as he would be identified. And that was because in good faith, they believed listening to the intelligence agencies that this would put him at risk, it would put other individuals at risk, it would put what they refer to as "sources, methodologies" for obtaining the news. There was a publication that is not a mainstream publication that did'nt play by those rules. Suddenly the name was out there. For a very longtime in news speak, a day or two which is a forever now in the news environment —— (Laughter) —— mainstream media outlets held to they're position that they weren't going to do this on principle. At some point it became ridiculous because the name was out there and it was known. We went forward. But part of the erosion of norms it has to go both ways as well. And we in the mainstream media take on a extra level of responsibility because we believe we operate in the public good, and because we need to interact in a respectful way with Administrations. But there's a universe out there of journalists, be they two people on a blog, or be they someone on Facebook that feel empowered to put all sorts of things out there. And then the question for editors and news executives is, do we follow suit?  And there's not an easy answer to that. »» We want to come back to that point. Jennifer, the Post tag line these days is "democracy dies in darkness" which tees up exactly the kind of tension we've been talking about. I made the point that the government is not above the law. But Lee, your point, the press is not above the law either. Those present hard questions. I'd like to turn for a minute to public attitudes about the press. Polling about public regard for the press produces some curious and sometimes disquieting news. The 2017 Gallop Knight Foundation poll found that 8 in 10 it was really closer to 5 in 6 American adults believe that the media are critical or very important to our democracy. But at the same time, more than half said that the media performs this role poorly rather than well. So Andrea this sounds like a good news/bad news story. What do we make of that?  What should we take of that? »» I think the people feel it's an important value to have the media. And they are good consumers. They know what they like and they know what they don't like. That's helpful. Unfortunately, because there's so many in the multiplicity of media now, people tend to too often go to their niches, go to they're comfortable places and not challenge themselves as consumers to read and watch other sources and just look for other viewpoints and question themselves and become better consumers. I would really love an environment where we all watched different news sources and try to keep a more open mind, those in government as well as those of us writing and reporting the news. And inspire more people to become engaged and to vote. »» One of the points that came out of this poll had to do with keeping news and opinion separate. And two—thirds of those polled said that the media does not do a good job of this. And this is something like 66% up from 42% a generation ago that had this opinion. Jennifer you mentioned editorial page, which is of course separate from the news. Many publications have a variety of viewpoints on the editorial page. You now see stories that are Labeled "analysis". But this distinction, is this viable?  Is this continuing?  Or is this dissipating? »» Part of the problem when we get into polling like this is to ask the preliminary question, what media are we talking about? »» Uhm—hum. »» I think Andrea and I, maybe some people here would be able to identify a certain cable network that does not add here to that separation. And does not really adhere to the normal standards of journalism. So people that complain a particular show A particular reporter, a particular host does not adhere to the addition tings between opinion and fact, or even well—founded opinion, and not well—founded opinion would have a point. So I think when we talk about this issue, we again have to go back to the media that does make a effort to separate the two. And it is not always easy. I can not tell you the number of emails, Twitter responses I get which is, you are too opinionated!  And the answer is that, that is part of my job. My job is also —— (Laughter) —— my job is also to get the facts right. And it may surprise people to learn that at the Washington Post, the same factual standards that apply to the news side apply to the opinion side. We are held by exactly the same standards. We have exactly the same obligation to tell the truth and to determine what the truth is. We can then go the next step and tell you what we think about it, or what other people think about it, or whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. But the premise has to be a objective reality that we can verify as best as we are able to do. The problem of multi—labeled and multi—identified piece, analysis, perspective, there's a whole variety of these terms that you now see in original print publications, now they appear obviously online, that is a challenge. And yet, I can tell you that maybe like the definition of affinity, I know it when I see it. I know it when a person on the news side takes a big picture view and analyzes a trend or a phenomenon providing analysis, providing some in—depth understanding, that is different than what I do, or what my counterpart on the left, Greg Sergeant does who will then explain why that's a bad thing, why that's a bad thing, or whether we agree with it, or whether we don't, or whether that's going to work or not. But that's fundamentally different. And I don't think we want particularly in this day and age where the news comes at you like a fire hydrant where it's baffling and confusing and you feel that if you leave your phone you won't catch up. It's important that we have these analysis pieces, that we explain and put some context as the what is going on in the world. It's hard for us to keep up. It's hard for the public to keep up. And if some of us as some of us support part of a strategy of a government is to throw as much out there as possible to come up one scandal with another scandal to just keep throwing what the World is the mulch whatever the word is, in the ocean for the sharks, then it's importantly important that we have this explanatory role. And sometimes we get it right. And sometimes we don't get it so right. And I think the other piece that we haven't talked about as much is that, part of the mainstream media's ethic is to admit who's gotten it wrong. We make mistakes all the time. That's why you have construction. That's why you have in very rare cases retraction. That's why your have —— retraction. That's why you have another story saying this is the story we had yes, now the government is saying something different. Whether it's the spelling somebody's name, or the the objective of a particular official or a departure of a official, sometimes we do get it wrong. The difference between us and sometimes the government, or us and non—mainstream media is we admit it. And we attempt to correct it. As quickly as we can, which sometimes suspect quit enough for some viewers or some readers. »» Let me ask this, let's assume that the blending of opinion and news is more common in what I'll call alternative media. Andrea are there none the less lessons for the mainstream media as the public perceptions.  It's confident that there are people who believe that the New York Times, the Washington Post and other mainstream media blur that line between fact and opinion. Are there take aways for the traditional mainstream media? »» The most clear cut division is the op ed page the, editorial page and the op ed. The analysis or the reporters not impook or some other nomenclature to define something that is to that 30,000—foot view. I think these are valuable perspective. We find them in The New Yorker in The Atlantic Magazine, they're not opinions so much as someone who's very experienced in a region. I can think of some foreign correspondents in the New York Times the Washington Post who's opinion I really value and I seize on if I have not been to a region. And I'm not as familiar as what's happening in their government. Because I know that I'm getting something very special from that writer. Now, where it gets really complicated and confusing, I think is often on television online. It's very clear that in our prime time on MSNBC we have very... much more opinionated hosts and analysis than we do during the day. And our news division President for years would say, well people understand this. They understand the difference between a editorial page and the news page. And during the day you're getting the straight news, like that's what I do at noon. And try to get as many different opinions. There has been a reluctant of some administration officials to come on our air, but we still get some we get republicans from the Hill all the time. And former republican officials. But we try to have as much diversity of opinions and analysis. And as my own perspective is that when we have guests come on, they are either err former official whose had real roles who were working in non—proliferation, on Asia policy under George Bush, Under George Bush i, under Obama or Clinton or people from the relevant committees, Democratic or republican, the House or the Senate. Or legal experts who were in the Justice Department with so much coverage of the Muller probe. But you do find on some programs at night that the hosts are more opinionated. And that I think can be confusing to people. We have the really expect a lot from our viewers to get it, to understand that. I'm going to be writing an analysis of the North Korea summit tonight and tomorrow to post sometime this weekend for our website. And they will have a reporter or many reporters covering arrivals of the delegation, what is happening, the President is landing, this is where you're meeting, et cetera and et cetera. I'm taking that step back, I've been to Korea over a number of times, ill compare what happened in 2011 how Bill Clinton told me offer l afterwards he expected we would be normallizing relation, how we were —— deprived to say the least in 1994, then again in the 2000s by the cheating, the declarations later by North Korea by the regime, king Ung Un's father and all of the secret weapons, the plutonium program that paralleled the Iranian program. That's kind of peace where I can take some liberties, it's not the straight as you refer to earlier to just he said we're not just telling people this happened, that happened, trying to give context and history. And that is a fair use of my experience. And it has some value to viewers and to readers. One other thought here though is, I could be wrong. I could have written a week or two ago something that's really high risk. The President leaped into this back in March without even getting the advice of the South Korean whose had come to brief him. He said, yes, I'm do it. And it was unexpected. It was a little bit impulsive, more than a little bit impulsive. A lot of people criticized it. What if it turns out to be really smart?  What if we now are moving towards a dialogue for the first time, a real dialogue with perhaps the North Korean leader who has different expectation. I don't think denuclearization giving up a 07—year or a 45—year program is really in the cards but what if he has different economic imperatives. I don't know that. So the best I can do is present the analysis of the experts of the intelligence community other official, weigh both sides and see what happens. »» Lee, a related issue that has come out in the polling is what's viewed as bias in the press. My question, when we talk at bias in the press, are we talking about the blending of facts and opinions?  Are we talking about partisan bias?  Are we talking about collecting what stories to report on?  What's your sense of what that perception is?  Because it's widely held. »» Well, most of what I do is defend people like these two when they get sued for defamation. These two never get sued for definition. (Laughter). »» But if I ever would I would want him. (Laughter). »» So I spend a lot of time thinking about juries who would sit on defamation cases think. And there is no question that for whatever reason, I have my own theories, but for whatever reason, there is a perception that there was a time in the not too distant past when the media was not biased and the media is now biased. Is that because contrary to what the news division President said people don't really understand the difference between daytime programming on MSNBC and nighttime programming? I tend to think it is a little bit of that.  Because most people watch at night. Most people don't watch during the day, the audiences, whatever you call it. But whatever it is, it gives an opening for people who want to sue the press to argue that when you were talking about earlier, Jennifer, good faith mistakes, which are going to happen, and which mainstream media routinely corrects because it's part of their Ethos, but it gives good lawyers representing people who want to sue the press the ability to say that mistake was a result of bias. That was intentional, that wasn't just a good faith error that was bias. And it is threatening to have real impact in how cases come out. And that in turn will have a chilling eeffect on reporting. »» Let me give you an example of unintentional bias. In 1992 a New York Times reporter was respecting the rest of the press at a photoopportunity with George Herbert Walker Bush at a supermarket. And so then President running against Bill Clinton, fighting a disparate age the first baby boomer post—war against World War II generation President was remarking about the scanner at the check out counter, I think a pair of socks was being purchased. The pool reporter remark about how stunned the President was by seeing this computer technology, which the President would still argue if I went up to Kennedy today was not what he would say that he had seen it before, he was not that uninformed or out of touch. But because there was a an assumption that because of his elite status, his background, his tendency to talk about I'll take a splash of that rather than pour me a drink that he was not as connected as the Clinton—Gore team on the campaign bus, the resurrection of the bus trips which were so impactful for the public some he wrote a pool report that had been picked up by any other media he was the only writer respecting everybody how the President was so stunned by the supermarket check out counter. That stuck. That was damaging to Bush 41. It was not mean spirited or intentional. But it was an unintentional aby a well—intentioned writer by someone stereotyping and maybe not checking and saying before he wrote it, was this the way you really felt. There were those damaging moments the caucus getting into the tank with the helmet, and then Lee Atwater, representing Bush 41 many a very mean—spirited campaign, the Willy Horton campaign in '88, putting together as Roger Ails did for that campaign, a devastating commercial that ridiculed him as not having understood national security.  He had just come from giving a national security speech, a very important foreign policy speech in Chicago, hen he divide the photo opportunity with the tank, and looked ridiculous and that was a devastating thing. So there are those moments where we are all unwitting participants and perhaps we have to be more —— I believe we have to be more careful in how we cover things. »» One of the things that certainly came out of the 2016 presidential campaign was the sense that a lot of mainstream news organizations, which are based in Washington, which is based in New York, somehow missed something that was going on out there. I actually this there was a lot of reporting on what was going on out there.  But the point was well taken. Because unlike in the past, if you go into the New York Times news section or you go through the Bureau at NBC you will find mostly upper middle class college—educated people. That leaves out a certain set of life experiences in some cases, a certain set of values. I think the press does not do for example a terrific job of covering religion, because many reporters do not have have a religiously observe ant lifestyle, that doesn't mean everyone, that doesn't mean their antireligion. It means sometimes we mess a prospective that we need to go out of the way to cultivate. This can be over done. If I read one more piece about a reporter going into a diner in Ohio or Pennsylvania —— (Laughter) I'm going to be ill. But, it is fair to say, and we at the Post have made an effort to do this, not only on the news side or the opinion side to find people who don't live in New York and California and Washington, D.C. And that's part of our obligation too. Because particularly in a time where we're so polarized, it very easy to miss a very large part of the country that doesn't think like we do, that doesn't have the same experiences, who doesn't have the same economic opportunities, that doesn't have the same level of interaction with government that we do. And so, that's an affirmative obligation we have to prevent bias by trying to really watch ourselves and to try to source people from a variety of religious, academic, social, economic backgrounds. And it hard. It's very hard. »» Let me recommend Dan Balls's reporting he learned at the feet of the great David Broder called door knocking, David would go out and literally door knock, go up and down streets all across America as he was cover ago campaign rather than going from you know airport rally to airport rally and getting caught up in the campaign narrative. And it's very, very useful. »» Before we touch on a couple of final topics, let me just say that we can take a couple of questions at the end. And if any of you would like to ask a question, if you would raise your hand I think we can get a card to you. And you write down your question and we'll try to take a couple at the end. But I want to turn to a slightly different issue which is attacks on the media. We have our own variety of issue, but by in large we have historically avoided attacks on the media. But where there are systematic stridant challenge to the media, is that —— Lee, is that an attack on national institution?  Is this a rule of law issue?  And then I want to ask, if it is, who should respond to that and how? »» Well, I think it's a huge issue. You know, we started this discussion by talking about what the First Amendment means, what freedom of the press means. We have a national constitution it's supposed to cover all 50 states, supposed to govern every state legislature, every public individual, every jurisdiction in the country but the fact of the matter is, I can —— every jurisdiction in the country. Can I tell you if the Washington Post gets sued over some story that it wrote by a public official, I can tell you that the result may well differ depending on whether they're sued in State Court, in Kentucky or whether they're sued in federal court here in the District of Columbia. And that is purely a function of the fact that there is a constituency out there to which apparently some sizable percentage though not a majority of the country ascribes that the media is horrible, and that media lies, and that the media doesn't tell the truth, the media is biased. And it's very hard to crack that perception and get a fair shake. Whereas, the same exact case was brought here where there's a much different world view, it would come out differently. And so that message the getting through, and it's getting through in parts of the country where there is very little counter voice.  And one of the things the media needs to do is figure out a bet ware to communicate to —— a better way to communicate to the broader public not just the beltway public, not just the northeast corridor public in California about the importance of the job that it does and the fact that the overwhelming majority of these attacks are false and unfair. »» I think there's a fundamental difference from Presidents in the time in memorial have not like add particular coverage on a particular outlet or a particular issue. Every public official thinks he's been unfairly treated by somebody, I can guarantee it. The difference is that in the past, we have not had the press attack as an institution in the way that we are recently experiencing that. We are not used to for example, seeing a public official in Montana during the campaign cold cock a reporter and then lie about it. And win. And win!  (Laughter) We have not seen as happened at the EPA recently reporters yanked out of the room. We have not seen the attack that the NBC should quote "lose it's license" NBC does haven't a license, that was Bolluxed up. The threat that you would experience the loss of a right to broadcast, that's not something we've traditionally faced in this country. I think we have to be careful on diffirentiating that you didn't story right or we don't like the way you covered XY and Z oh oh or the better of why aren't you covering this instead of that, that's "normal" if you what's not normal is the government as a institution deciding that the press has to be demonnized, excluded, bullied. And that's a problem. That's a violation of the Democratic norms that we were talking about. And if that succeeds, we will find ourselves like many countries around the world where the press does not operate with the same access, the same freedom, the same lack of fear that we have enjoyed in this country. »» The enemy —— if phrase "the enemy of the people" has never been attached to us until recently. My colleague whose were out at rallies during the cam campaign discovered they were frequently targeted from the podium and from the crowd in very frightening ways. The Secret Service jumped in and escorted one of our colleagues out of the stadium in Alabama. Awe gnaw the face of that, given that, are there things that the media could do to alleviate this, to build trust?  Some of us here can remember that there was a time when Walter Cronkite, the anchor of CBC was perceived as the most trustworthy person in the country in public polls. Are there ways to get back to at least in the direction of where we once were? »» I think we are very polarized country right now. We're a very divided country, we live in two intellectual and media universes. It's extremely hard to find a figure that everybody agrees is trustworthy. That said, I think in are lots of things that the media can do, and is doing to reestablish that trust. One is something Andrea pointed out, the Washington Post would never begin a story as I can remember in the past which begins something like, we spoke to 23 separate sources —— (Laughter) 18 of which are in the administration, and explaining how we got to where we got. We have felt that that is important because the Administration has accused us baking up sources, or not looking far enough to determine the facts. So one of the things we can do to reestablish trust is transparency. Another is admitting error. Correcting the record when we do make a mistake. A third is to, this is more perhaps germane in the broadcast television world, but it's true on the Washington Post editorial page to present a variety of views so that people don't feel like one point of view is being thrust at them day after day. But it's a very hard problem. We live in a cynical age where if you look at institutions, just about every institution other than the military, levels of support are way down. With government, with Congress, and we live in an age of cynicism, September schism is good. But sin sint can erode the trust for a democracy, the trust between individual and government and the trust between readers and viewers and the news media. Mist that's a problem that runs two ways part is our problem and the public's problem. »» Peggy Nunan talking about declining trust across our national institutions, described it not as a problem, but as a crises. Lee and Andrea, final thoughts on how we do better? »» Well I would echo some what has been said in being more transparent, in admitting error, in working harder to get at the facts. This has been a really tough year and a half for a lot of people, a lot of my colleagues who are covering the beat itself. Who are more directly voave involved because with social media there is no rest, there is no sleep. As some of you may have watched the Fourth Estate in it's portrayal of what the New York times bureau here in Washington is going on right now, it's pretty realistic, the plin that tweet comes in —— the minute that Tweet comes in up n the morning you're up and running. I never expected I would be covering the firing of the Secretary of State which was announced on Twitter at 8:40 in the morning. Normally such things would be announced in the Briefing Room the Rose Garden with the President of the United States or the press secretary, we're all on a different rhythm. People are exhausted and burned out. That's part of the problem. But we till have to also have a big —— we still to v to have a bigger bandwidth. The Times and the Post are doing so well. There's a lot in government that we can't get to because we are constantly updating and chasing the latest iteration from some courthouse or some filing by somebody's attorney, and in the moment, you don't necessarily know what is important and what isn't. And there are decisions being made at CDC and EPA and FDA and all over government and all over America that really affect our daily lives. When did we last go back to Flint and take a lack at the water?  There's a lot of stuff out there it took a Harvard study got everybody awakened to the fact that more people died in Puerto Rico than had been invited it's not investigating and mud raking but just a whole lot of information that is not always being addressed because of the very important coverage of an unpress dented investigation into an external attack by Russia on our system of elections. So i'm not sure what the answer system everybody's staffing up. But we have to try to also maintain perspective and not jump after; leap after the latest shiny object. »» Lee, final thoughts? »» I think Jennifer is quite right about the things that the media can do. But the media can only do so much in it's own defense. And I look around for where help is going to come from. And I think our last best hope is the judiciary, which gets you can back to the rule of law. At some point, a lot of these First Amendment press battles will percolate up through the courts, at some point one or more of them is going to wind up in the United States Supreme Court. It was a different era, a different set of issues, but in 1964 the Supreme Court stood up for the free press. And they decided the New York Times versus Sullivan in a very similar kind of atmospherE in one part of the country the press was vilified. The New York times was going to be put out of business if something wasn't done. I just hope and pray that when that moment comes that the courts are ready to step up and do the right things. »» I don't think the National Archives literally uses hooks. But I'm quite mindful of our time. We have really run through our time. So with your indulgence, I think we should wrap it up before the stage does go dark. And please join me in thanking this wonderful panel. (Applause).

Contents

Aims

According to the umbrella homepage, "Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage."[1] It aims to be an alternative to government and corporate media, and seeks to facilitate people being able to publish their media as directly as possible.[2]

History

Temporary IMC in Edinburgh covering protests at the 2005 G8 summit
Temporary IMC in Edinburgh covering protests at the 2005 G8 summit

The origins of Indymedia can be traced to the global justice protest Carnival Against Capitalism, which took place in over forty countries on June 18, 1999.[3] Activists had networked globally using the internet, and had seen its publishing potential. Events could be reported as they happened, unmediated and without the need for the traditional news outlets. Plans came together for an Independent Media Centre to cover the upcoming Seattle WTO protests in November. The open publishing software used by the centre was developed from that used to report the carnival in Sydney.[4][5][6]

In late November 1999, the first Indymedia project was ready to cover the protests against the WTO meeting in Seattle, Washington. It acted as an alternative news source publishing up-to-the-minute reports on the protest days. Additionally it produced a newspaper and five documentaries.[7][6][8]

After Seattle the idea and network spread rapidly. By 2002, there were 89 Indymedia websites in 31 countries (including Palestine),[9] growing to over 150 by January 2006. The number of active centres grew from 142, in 2004, to 175 in 2010.[10]:426 However, by 2014 the network had declined significantly, with the number of active sites down to 68.[10]:426 A number of reasons for the decline have been put forward. In an article published by the journal Convergence Eva Giraud summarised some of the different arguments that had been made by academics and activists, which included informal hierarchy, bureaucracy, security issues including IP address logging, lack of regional engagement, lack of class politics, increase in web 2.0 social media use, website underdevelopment, decline in volunteers and decline in the global justice movement.[10]

Alternative Bristol pointed to security reasons for the decline. It stated that since server seizures Indymedia UK has been used less and less with on average only one new posting per week. It added activists are moving to alternative media content providers and more secure methods since the Snowden leaks.[11] Most obviously, the rise of corporate social media sites and the massification of 'open publishing' appropriated Indymedia's key innovations for the cultural industry.[12]

United Kingdom

In 2011, the UK national site saw a conflict in which direction it should take. One side wanted the site to remain the same, another group wanted it to become an aggregator for the regional centers.[10][13]

In February 2013, Ceasefire magazine noted a decline in the use of Nottingham Indymedia, stating that activist use of commercial social media had increased.[14]

In 2014, the Bristol site was archived and closed after police server seizures.[15][16]

Police and legal action against IMCs

United Kingdom

Bristol server seizure 2005

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

Servers 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.[17] 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,[18] the police proceeded with the seizure and a member of the Bristol Indymedia group was arrested.[19] Indymedia was supported in this matter by the National Union of Journalists, Liberty[20] and Privacy International, along with others. This incident ended several months later with no charges being brought by the police and the equipment returned.[21]

Prior to the original server being returned, Bristol Indymedia was donated a replacement server by local IT co-operative, Bristol Wireless.[22]

Bristol server seizure 2014

In August 2014, Bristol Indymedia's servers were seized by police after arsonists used the site to claim responsibility for a fire at firearms training centre.[16] Bristol Indymedia stated that they will not cooperate with the authorities and that they "do not intend to voluntarily hand over information to the police as they have requested".[23]

United States

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[24]
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[24]

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.[25]

Seizure of servers by the FBI 2004

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 for 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]

Subpoena for IP addresses

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.[39] 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."[39] 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."[39] 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 to the Attorney General for review.[40] 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.[40]

Italy

In July, 2001 at the 27th G8 summit in Genoa, Italian police assaulted Indymedia journalists at the Armando Diaz School where Indymedia had set up a temporary office and radio station. Twenty-nine police officers were indicted for beating people, planting evidence and wrongful arrest during the night-time raid. Thirteen were convicted.[41][42]

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.[43]

Germany

In the aftermath of the violent 2017 G20 Hamburg summit protests, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community banned the German chapter of the network, Linksunten.indymedia. The ministry described the network as "the central communications platform among far-left extremists prone to violence" and stated that it was used to spread information about violent protest tactics. German internet service providers were ordered to block communication to the website. The German police also raided the addresses of several leading members and supporters of the Indymedia network in the Baden-Württemberg region.[44][45]

Brad Will shooting

Indymedia banner in the Netherlands protesting the Oaxaca shootings
Indymedia banner in the Netherlands protesting the Oaxaca shootings

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.[46] 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]

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.[47][48]

Technology

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

The Active software that was used as the basis for the first Indymedia centers' websites was written for Active Sydney. It went live in January 1999 featuring open publishing, calendars, events and contacts. In March, around one hundred Sydney organisations were listed.[49] The Active software consisted of a number of scripts and used the LAMP software stack.[50][49]

In June 1999, the software's news feed feature was used to published stories, pictures and videos from the Carnival Against Capitalism.[4][5] The Active software was then further developed by an international collective of activists that included personnel from Active Sydney and Free Speech TV. It was readied to be used for the Seattle Indymedia center set up to cover the WTO protests that November.[4][5][51][52][53][31][54]

In 2001, Matthew Arnison, one of the original authors of Active compared open publishing to libre software.[55]

The original Active software has been forked a number of times.[56] Other Indymedia content management systems have been written from the ground up. By 2004, the most widely adopted CMS software solutions were Mir (developed by Indymedia, not the later Mir display server developed by Canonical), active-sf and dadaIMC.[57] Hyperactive was used by Demark[clarification needed], London and Nottingham centers.[58]

Some centers, such as Bolivia and Quebec Indymedia, use general purpose content management systems such as Drupal.[59]

Notable custom Indymedia content management systems include Oscailt used by Ireland indymedia; version 3.6 was released in March 2016.[60]

Distribution

Indymedia collectives distribute print, audio, photographic, and video media. They run open publishing websites which allow anyone to upload news articles. The content of an Indymedia collectives is determined by its participants, both the users who post content, and members of the local collective who administer the site. Centres worldwide are run autonomously, however they all provide copyleft content. This rule means content on Indymedia sites can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes.[61]

Streamed Indymedia content was shown on Free Speech TV in 2004.[62]

Indymedia websites publish in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, French, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew.[63]

Content and focus

Belgian Indymedia's headquarters in Brussels
Belgian Indymedia's headquarters in Brussels

The origins of Indymedia centres themselves came out of protests against the concentrated ownership and perceived biases in corporate media reporting. The first Indymedia 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.[64][65][66][67][68][69]

Reports between 1999 and 2001 tended to focus on up-to-the-minute coverage of protests, from local demonstrations to summits where anti-globalization movement protests were occurring.[citation needed]. In 2007, protest coverage was still published.[70]

Indymedia run a global radio project which aggregates audio RSS feeds from around the world.[71]

Organizational structure

Indymedia is formed of local collectives. They are run autonomously, but common rules include openness, inclusiveness and diversity. Editorial policies, locally chosen by any Indymedia collectives often involve removing articles which are believed to promote racism, sexism, hate speech, and homophobia.[72] A clearly stated editorial policy is expected to be available on collectives' websites.[72]

Criticism

Views on Israel and Jews

In a 2002 op-ed, alter-globalisation activist Naomi Klein criticised Indymedia for posting excerpts from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[73] 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.[74][75][76]

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" (in her view) 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 language they considered racist and defamatory against Arabs and Muslims, such as the term "Islamofascism".[77]

See also

References

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Further reading

External links

  1. ^ "The Birth Of Digital Indy Media". February 9, 2015.
  2. ^ Meikle, Graham (February 4, 2014). "Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet". Routledge – via Google Books.
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