On 22 January 2009, an Indymedia server was seized by the Police in Manchester (UK). This was related to postings about the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) trial in the UK [IMC UK feature].
This page provides a timeline of the events, statements of support, media reports, and further information.
The seized server was run by volunteers from Indymedia UK and hosted at UK Grid, a Manchester-based Internet Service Provider offering internet hosting facilities. The contract was held by someone who is not part of Indymedia UK. The server hosted the following sites: Indymedia London, the wiki platform docs.indymedia.org, containing the documentation written by all 165 IMCs worldwide, a mirror site of Indymedia UK, and a development site for Indymedia UK.
Indymedia UK is being represented by Tuckers Solicitors, who have an well-regarded history of dealing with computer and IT law as well as complaints against the police.
- An anonymous user posts a comment containing the home address and telephone number of Judge Butterfield, who a few days previously had sentenced seven animal rights activists to a total of 50 years between them in prison.
- The comment is reposted by the same or another anonymous user.
- A Detective Sergeant from Kent police contacts the person who holds the hosting contract with the ISP UK Grid. He advises the officer to contact Indymedia UK via the imc-uk-contact email list.
- A Detective Sergeant from Kent police contacts Indymedia on the imc-uk-contact list and requests the removal of the two comments containing details about Judge Butterfield.
- He requests removal of comments from two posts:
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/01/419663.html?c=on#c213666 and www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/01/419665.html?c=on#c213632
- The personal information is also removed from the second post as soon as the email from the police is received. No Indymedia UK administrators had been aware of this post prior to the police email being sent.
- Indymedia UK is informed by UK Grid that the police are on the way to the hosting facility, and that the police say they have a warrant for the Indymedia UK server. Staff at UK Grid say that they will ask to see the warrant when the police arrive – and before they give them the hardware – and will keep a copy of the warrant to give to Indymedia UK.
- In the afternoon, Kent police arrive at UK Grid’s hosting facility. UK Grid said that no search warrant was provided, and that they initially refused to hand over the server without a warrant. UK Grid claim that in response to this refusal, the police said that they could phone and get a warrant. At that point UK Grid management caved in and the server was handed over to the police. The police left a receipt for the machine.
- Throughout the evening and night, Indymedia UK volunteers are busy restoring the affected websites from backups. London Indymedia was back up by 22:00 GMT – less than 12 hours after it had gone offline.
- Kent police tell Indymedia’s lawyer via telephone that a warrant had been issued, signed by a senior police officer.
Indymedia Press Releases
26.01.09 - Press Release #1: "IMC Server Seized by UK Police"
Statements of Support
- 27.01.2009 Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC): "When police seized the Manchester server of Indymedia, they were carrying out surveillance and intimidation against everyone who posts material onto that site, thus attacking their freedom of expression. This seizure had no plausible aim of investigating or preventing crime. Rather, it turns all Indymedia participants into suspects. Likewise, under so-called 'anti-terror' laws, many special powers and police practices are creating suspect communities. We oppose such abuses of power."
- 22.01.2009 Lee Salter, Lecturer in Journalism (University of West England): "Journalistic material is protected by law, and the police should not gather more information than is relevant for their investigation - by seizing this server they are not only getting information on Indymedia but also on wholly unrelated groups. The police should know that Indymedia does not hold personal information on its participants, so it is a concern is that the police are collecting random information on participants."
- 26.01.2009 SchNews, weekly news bulletin, Brighton: "The seizure of the UK Indymedia server is a blatant attack on one of the main thorns in the side of the British corporate media stitch-up. The fact that Indymedia is one of the few websites which protect the privacy of the people posting onto it (by not logging IP addresses) - in contravention of the EU Directive on Data Retention - allows it to function as it does as truly independent media. While there is a plethora of blogs, wikis and other sites which allow 'free speech' on the internet, these all mostly do log IP addresses, which is information police can use to establish the identity of those posting on these sites. Indymedia is a notable exception. The recent seizure of an Indymedia server is linked to a police attempt to gain the IP address of an IMC poster relating to the SHAC trial, and given that this information wasn't even on the server, the seizure amounts to a crude attack on Indymedia. Indymedia achieves a great deal with a minimum of resources and voluntary workers, so all users of it are urged to respond to any call-out for help."
- 02.02.2009 Albert Weidemann, human rights campaigner: "Thanks to Indymedia for all they have done in the past and continue to do for those in the world who suffer persecution, torture and even death. For having the courage and conviction to speak out against human rights abuses where ever they happen in the world. Indymedia gave me the support in highlighting Zimbabwe's ongoing human rights abuses for that I am most grateful and in this time and hour support you in your collective endeavours to shed light and question motives of why the police did what they did."
- 09.02.2009 Arne Hintz, Program Director, Center for Media and Communication Studies, Central European University, Budapest: "The seizure of the Indymedia server is a serious interference with media freedoms and, particularly, with community and citizens media which serve as crucial platforms for independent journalism and for people's right to freedom of expression. It is deeply worrying if the police obstructs the workings of independent media by taking away their technical infrastructure and trying to gain access to confident information."
A collection of international media coverage on the 2009 Indymedia Server Seizure
Most of the early Indymedia articles are based on the original IMC UK feature.
[en] 22.01.09 – Indybay – “Indymedia UK Server in Manchester Seized By Police”
[cat] 23.01.09 – IMC Barcelona – “Servidor d’Indymedia UK segrestat per la policía”
[en] 23.01.09 – IMC UK – “Police Seize UK Indymedia Server (Again)”
[po] 23.01.09 – CMI Brazil – “Polícia apreende novamente servidor do Indymedia Reino Unido UK”
[de] 23.01.09 – IMC Germany – “Spiegelserver von Indymedia UK beschlagnahmt”
[en] 23.01.09 – IMC Athens – “Police Seize UK Indymedia Server (Again)”
[en] 23.01.09 – IMC Ireland – “INDYMEDIA IMC UK Server seized”
[en] 23.01.09 – IMC New York – “Indymedia server seized”
[po] 23.01.09 – IMC Poland – “UK: kolejne przejęcie serwerów Indymediów”
[it] 24.01.09 – IMC Switzerland – “Inghilterra Sequestrato server di Indymedia”
[en] 23.01.09 – The Register – “Police seize Indymedia server (again). Linked to animal rights extremism case?”
[en] 23.01.09 – SchNews – “Are you being served”
[de] 23.01.09 – Gulli – “Polizei beschlagnahmt Server”
[de] 24.01.09 – Annalist – "Indymedia-Server wegen “Öko-Terrorismus” beschlagnahmt"
[de] 24.01.09 – heise online – “Erneut Beschlagnahme von Indymedia-Server in Großbritannien”