Indymedia says the raid was an attack on press freedom
Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
A computer server and IT equipment belonging to the alternative media network known as Indymedia have been seized by police in Bristol.
The raid is understood to have been prompted by complaints about a message on the site concerning rail vandalism.
A 20-year-old man was arrested, and bailed, on suspicion of incitement to commit criminal damage.
A statement on Indymedia UK said: "Police demanded access to the server to gain the IP details of a posting."
A representative of Bristol Indymedia, on behalf of the collective, told BBC News: "Yesterday the police raided a residential property in Bristol and seized an Indymedia server and other computer equipment.
"We see this police action as an attack on the freedom of speech."
Tim Lezard, president of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), added: "We are obviously not happy that police have closed the server.
"We are supposed to be a free press.
"Will people read a post and take action?"
The raid and arrest were carried out by the British Transport Police.
A spokesman said: "This is not unusual. When we get wind of graffiti, for example, we often do house searches."
Once obtained, the IP address can then be used by internet service providers to track down computer users.
In 2004, servers belonging to Indymedia were seized in London by the FBI, acting on behalf of the Italian and Swiss authorities.
The legal justification for that raid included a gagging order that prevented details being revealed.
However, the servers were thought to have been seized under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty which is typically used by nations co-operating to investigate cross-border crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.
Legal row after police seize Bristol Indymedia server
By John Leyden
Published Tuesday 28th June 2005 13:44 GMT
Police seized a server used by Indymedia, the independent newsgathering collective, from the Bristol home of a member of the group after issuing a search warrant on Monday. The raid is the second time within the last year that an Indymedia server has been seized in the UK.
Officers also took the unnamed Bristol collective member in for questioning, and seized a PC, in an incident that has already provoked a huge row. The action happened despite the intervention on Indymedia's behalf by justice group Liberty whose lawyers advised police that the server was "considered an item of journalistic equipment and so subject to special provision under the law". Police had sought access to the server in order to gain access to logs about a posting related to an attack on a freight train that caused a reported £100,000 in damage.
On or around 17 June an anonymous person posted on the Bristol Indymedia newswire about an 'action' in which a freight train carrying new cars was reportedly attacked in a protest about cars and climate change in the run up to next week's G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Bristol Indymedia volunteers hid the post from their main newswire within a day because it breached editorial policy. The raid followed unsuccessful police attempts to get Indymedia to hand over the server voluntarily so they could examine logs for evidence.
Bristol Indymedia explained its stance in a posting: "As part of our policy, we will not make non-public information we hold publicly available. We do not permanently store IP addresses. We do not intend to voluntarily hand over information to the police as they have requested, and have informed them of this," it said.
In October 2004, a pair of UK servers used by Indymedia were seized a week before the European Social Forum. The servers were taken from the London offices of hosting firm Rackspace after the latter was served with a controversial US warrant. The FBI apparently acting under a US-UK treaty on behalf of Switzerland and/or Italy to seize the hardware, which was subsequently returned. Swiss authorities reportedly said the data could help its investigation of Indymedia's coverage of the 2003 G8 in Evian but the server was also thought to include correspondence with lawyers involved in the case against Genoa police related to a 2001 G8 summit in the city.
That action resulted in many Indymedia sites becoming temporarily unavailable. The latest raid has left Bristol Indymedia's web site offline with surfers redirected to the main Indymedia UK web site through which a protest against the police action is been organised.