Friday, October 15, 2004

The First Amendment is for Suckers, FBI Style


So the FBI seizes two servers of an independent media site, resulting in the shut down of more than 20 Indymedia sites around the world. The sites were down for a week, coming back up yesterday with no formal charges levied and no explanation given for the raid. Read the FAIR ACTION ALERT here: FBI Shutdown of Indymedia Threatens Free Speech.

From the article:

Indymedia, which provides grassroots reporting on social justice issues and protests, is a decentralized network that allows anyone to post news on its websites. If there is reason to suspect that participants on these websites are involved with criminal activities, shutting down the servers is rather like shutting down the phone system because people have been using the telephone to plot crimes.

To silence over 20 media sites around the world with no charges and no explanation strikes a severe blow against freedom of expression and should trouble media outlets worldwide. European media have been covering the story, but in this country, the media have been virtually silent. Aside from two AP articles (10/8/04, 10/14/04), one by UPI (10/11/04) and one in the Hartford Courant (10/13/04), FAIR found no mainstream news outlets reporting on the Indymedia story.

This is not the first time Indymedia has been targeted by U.S. authorities. During the Republican National Convention in August, the Secret Service attempted to obtain private records from NYC Indymedia's Internet Service Provider; the ISP refused. The FBI attempted to obtain similar records from Indymedia servers during the massive protests against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas in Quebec City but lost the legal battle (Indymedia, 8/31/04).

If there is credible evidence of actual crimes that involve Indymedia websites, then an investigation that respects Indymedia's rights as a media outlet may be warranted. But FBI action that intimidates or silences media around the world under a shroud of secrecy is an extraordinary and grave threat to free speech.

I got nothin' in response.