On Monday, June 27th, Indymedia Bristol's server was seized by the police. An Indymedia volunteer was arrested during the raid on suspicion of incitement to criminal damage. He is now on bail. See Indymedia Bristol Statement (28th June 05):
"We are outraged at the actions of the police. They have completely disabled the entire Bristol Indymedia news service. By their actions they have undermined the principle of open publishing and free access to the media, thereby removing people's opportunity to read and report their own news. This situation has serious implications for anyone providing a news service on the Internet. We do not intend to let this stop us from continuing the project."
Last week, police demanded access to the server to gain the IP details of a posting. The alternative media outlet is receiving advice from civil liberties organisations and the NUJ. Before being legally forced to hand over the server, Indymedia Bristol stated: "We do not intend to voluntarily hand over information to the police as they have requested". Bristol Indymedia see the seizure of their server and the arrest of one of their volunteers as an attack on the freedom of speech.
This is the second time that law enforcement authorities have attacked Indymedia servers in the UK in the run up to a major event. Last October, just prior to the European Social Forum, Indymedia servers in London were seized in an international law enforcement operation - prompting a wave of protests and solidarity statements from a wide range of organisations [report]. This time, events are unfolding one week before the G8 Summit begins in Scotland.
In order to provide grass-roots non-corporate coverage during the G8 protests and events, Indymedia UK needs additional http mirrors to help decrease bandwidth costs. If you would like to help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or donate here.
Here are some more details
On Monday 27th June the police raided a residential property in Bristol and seized an Indymedia server and other computer equipment. They also arrested one person for incitement to criminal damage under common law. That person has since been released on bail. We see this police action as an attack on the freedom of speech and journalistic independence.
This police action relates to an article posted on 17th June in which persons unknown claimed to have damaged cars being transported on a train. This article was considered by Bristol Indymedia to have breached the guidelines and was hidden.
On Monday 20th the police contacted Bristol Indymedia with reference to this posting. Bristol Indymedia informed the police that they were in the process of instructing a solicitor to reply on their behalf. On Tuesday 21st the police contacted a Bristol Indymedia volunteer requesting the IP logs. Bristol Indymedia considered that the system was journalistic material covered by special provision under the law.
A solicitor from Liberty faxed the police explaining this provision. The police then contacted Bristol Indymedia to request a meeting which Bristol Indymedia agreed to. Ten minutes before the arranged meeting DI Bennett of British Transport Police cancelled the meeting and asked to postpone it.
The next police contact was the seizure of the server and the arrest of a Bristol Indymedia volunteer. The seizure of the server was carried out under a search warrant (police and criminal evidence act 1984, ss.8 and 15), not recognising the journalistic privilege.
Commenting on the heavy-handed approach of the Bristol police, who threatened that "they may arrest somebody for obstructing the course of justice", an Imc Uk volunteer said: "It's like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut (27 June)". Lee Salter, a lecturer in Journalism, agrees:
"The seizure of the Indymedia Bristol server illuminated deficits in the law. Law protecting journalists were drafted with mainstream news organisations in mind, so it cannot cope with media collectives. Whilst the police might well have had good reason to investigate the claims made on Indymedia Bristol's web site, by effectively shutting down the whole operation the police have acted insensitively and have used rather extreme methods, especially when Bristol IMC have been far from uncooperative (29 June)."
An Imc techie added: "I do not believe that there is any useful information that the police could gain from the server seizure (27 June)."
The editor of Free Internet Press states: "As a news source, I can simply say how we'd feel. We would be absolutely furious if anyone attempted to tamper with our equipment. We support Indymedia. Attempts to silence any media organization cannot be tolerated! There is quite a bit to this issue, we suggest you read all the links in the story."Press contact for Bristol Indymedia:
Ana - Bristol Indymedia Volunteer / 07976 787335