Indymedia takes on secret police over server shutdown

Servers: Indymedia has vowed to find out why websites were closed

Indymedia has lodged a legal bid to find out why secret government agencies seized two of its internet servers, closing down 20 journalism websites.

The international journalism collective has vowed that it will not be silenced with a spokesman saying that governments “can’t close down the internet, it’s too late for that”.

The servers were returned a week after being handed over to unknown authorities by the London office of web-hosting company Rackspace.

But now – three weeks after the original seizure of the servers – there remains a government news blackout as to why they were taken.

Rackspace says it is barred by the terms of the court order – which allowed the seizure of the computers -from saying who took them.

The US-based company has only said that the order was made under an international anti-terrorism arrangement called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).

Indymedia has now lodged a motion to unseal the MLAT order, which was made at San Antonio District Court in Texas.

The seizure of Indymedia’s two servers resulted in 20 websites, including the British version of Indymedia, temporarily going offline. The servers disappeared on 7 October, and were returned on 12 October.

The seizure is said by Indymedia to be linked to photographs of two suspected Swiss undercover policemen pictured at a protest which appeared on the Nantes Indymedia site.

The formation of the various Indymedia collectives have their roots in the anti-globalisation protests of 1999.

David Meieran, from Pittsburgh Indymedia, told Press Gazette : “If one of the aims of this was to remove those photographs from Nantes Indymedia, the Swiss and the FBI have failed in meeting that goal. The photographs are now posted all over the internet.

“They can take away our servers but they can’t take away our information – they can’t shut down the internet, it’s too late for that.

“The lesson we have learned is there will now be frequent mirrors and back-ups to make it impossible for a government agency to practise this form of censorship ever again.

“In terms of the number of journalists involved this probably constitutes one of the biggest attacks on independent media in history.”

The British government this week denied any involvement after questions were lodged by several MPs.

According to Indymedia, the London office of Rackspace might have couriered the server computers to the US after being contacted by its US parent company.

The FBI, which was originally thought to be behind the seizure, has now denied involvement.

By Dominic Ponsford

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