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The War On Freedom - Post Sept 11 Clampdown

Statewatcher | 16.10.2002 13:02

Even before September 11th governments around the world were looking at new ways to clamp down on the rising tide of anti-globalisation / anti-capitalist protests and the huge upsurge in online and offline political activity that was developing alongside.

In the UK less serious crimes (like trespass or holding demonstrations without giving notice to the police) was regarded as “serious crime" where it involves "conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose” and as such allowed new surveillance measures to be applied to political movements. Similarly redrafts of the definitions of “terrorism” to cover acts that may not in themselves be violent but which ‘have a significant impact on modern life’ or ‘challenge the status quo’ were underway.

The attacks on September 11th have now been widely credited with giving governments the go ahead for their own unprecedented attack on civil rights. Almost everywhere one turns it seems that threats to the free press, to journalism, and to the right to communicate are increasing, and with war once again on the agenda these threats are intensifying. Political groups are facing new draconian legislation, often both nationally and internationally (or at the European level), which threaten to turn what was once considered normal political activity into crimes worthy of surveillance and repression. Other minority groups especially asylum seekers and immigrants have also become targets.

In Europe following agreements to put in place surveillance of protest groups, to create a new database on the Schengen Information System (SIS) on protestors, and plans to bring together para-military police units from different countries for EU Summits and international meetings, there is now a new set of definitions around “terrorism” which includes " large international events" (IMF G8 style summits?) and "organised groups run... for the purpose of achieving ...propaganda aims", as well as activities that “result in major economic loss" or activities “seriously destabilizing... the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation".

So who exactly is being targeted by this alleged “War on Terror”? It would seem that protestors, political activists, those who work for positive social change and those that report on their campaigns are the ones firmly in the firing line.

The following links provide some basic background on the ongoing “War on Freedom”:

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ): “The Aftermath of September 11th and The Implications for Journalism and Civil Liberties” detailed analysis of new threats to free press, journalism and political activism.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF): “The Internet on probation” post September 11th threats to electronic privacy and communication rights.

Amnesty International: "Rights Denied: the UK's response to 11 September 2001 damning 25 page report

Immigration and Asylum in the EU after 11 September 2001

The “War on Freedom and Democracy” - analysis of the effects on civil liberties and democratic culture in the EU
by Tony Bunyan of Statewatch

GreenNet Internet Rights Project: "How new terrorism legislation may criminalise the work of protest groups."

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"Everyone has the right to the freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."



Documentation of attacks on Indymedia

16.10.2002 13:30

Indymedia preserves the legitimate right to provide a platform allowing people to determine the content of their own media. This interactive tool is both informative and educational and provides a platform for the news and concerns of people and groups dedicated to environmental, human and social justice issues. The site offers free and open publishing but editorial guidelines help to liberate sites from discriminatory posts.

Legal and political sanctions are often the first tools used by those seeking to sabotage people or groups engaged in information projects or campaigning. A compliant corporate media manipulates to divide and destroy values, and state governments are engaged in increasingly extreme repression of protestors and minority groups particularly immigrants. International law and the United Nations are becoming increasingly powerless in the face of this new neo-liberal order.

Now groups including the global Indymedia network, which provides an independent alternative media platform, are also being targeted for political reasons. Here are just a few examples of the attacks and challenges facing Indymedia (examples mostly within Europe):

Attacks on Indymedia

IMC Athens ­- Police and media repression
IMC Athens has been subjected to media manipulation. It began with state and mainstream media using hysteria around a 27-year-old terrorist organisation known as November17 to attack left wing political groups including branding Indymedia Athens as a “terrorist” web site and calling for it to be shut down.
The Greek National Police Department Head of Cyber Crime also attempted to infiltrate the editorial group of the Athens IMC. A few days after this, Indymedia Athens received a posting, which was erased within 20 minutes, as it was clearly false and claimed responsibility for an attack on a newspaper office. A public prosecutor has since launched an inquiry for the police to discover the source of the posting and it is expected they will use this to try and obtain sever logs.

IMC Basque - Tension rising
The newly formed IMC Basque is fearful after the right-wing Spanish government banned the Basque party Batasuna claiming it was directly linked to the terrorist organisation ETA. IMC Basque continues to provide a platform for the language and views from the Basque country.

IMC Belgium - Police Intimidation
Belgium police summoned a single individual to a police station and claimed that a file was being kept on Indymedia Belgium since December 14 of last year. The police also claimed that they might take future legal action over published photographs of plain-clothes policeman.

IMC Germany -­ Police State and Media Intimidation
IMC Germany has so far politely declined police requests for user log files of posted articles but is aware of an intimidation process instigated by police and a growing number of repressive state bodies. It has also been threatened with several civil lawsuits for libel/defamation by a fascist right-wing journalist who also participated in a press campaign against Indymedia supported by Conservative politicians after it won a prestigeous media award. One local section of the secret police refers to Indymedia as "extremist" which in German legal terms means “criminal”.

IMC Italy - Post G8 Genoa Protests 2001 ­ repression and police intimidation
During the anti-G8 protests in genoa Italy in July 2001 police conducted a brutal midnight raid on two buildings being used by Indymedia and the umbrella organisation the Genoa Social Forum. Indymedia volunteers were among scores of people hospitalised, beaten as they slept and subsequently subjected to shocking torture. One Indymedia reporter was almost killed sustaining ribs broken, a punctured lung and ruptured spleen. Police smashed lawyers computers and confiscated computer discs and footage from the media centre.
This year on February 20 several social centres with alleged links to Indymedia Italy were raided by police who seized video footage and documents related to police brutality. The government has still not produced an independent inquiry despite condemnations from Amnesty and the UN. Volunteers from Indymedia Europe believe the Italian governments launch of such a spurious evidence gathering exercise is a blatant attempt to criminalise all those connected with Genoa, with a complete disregard to human rights law both nationally and internationally.

IMC Melbourne -­ Police Minister threatens to Shutdown anti-WTO websites
NSW Police Minister Michael Costa has included Melbourne Indymedia in attempts to shutdown several anti-WTO (World Trade Organisation) websites because he claims the sites are designed to aid the violent disruption of the forthcoming World Trade Organisation meeting in Sydney in November.

IMC Netherlands - Internet Test Case ­(appeal pending)
German railway network Deutsche Bahn brought an action against Indymedia Netherlands for not removing indirect links to two internet pages. The links led to several mirror sites of the German periodical Radikal, containing two-pages which the original host in the Netherlands was forced to take offline because it gave tips on how to obstruct trains carrying nuclear waste. Other sites such as the search engine google removed the links (and specific indirect links) when requested.
The judge's decision that all links that lead "directly or indirectly" to these two pages should be removed prove either a complete misuderstanding of the way the web works or a specific desire to target Indymedia. Indymedia Netherlands was fined and the links have now been removed, however they plan to appeal against the decision but they needs funds. Send MONEY to Indymedia NL for its appeal to preserve the democratic right to publish indirect links and to document content.

IMC Switzerland -­ Re-launching website after being temporarily Offline
In February 2002 IMC Switzerland faced a lawsuit accused of publishing anti-semitic race hate material - a cartoon by artist 'Latuff' which was not hidden from the newswire. This however was part of an ongoing conflict initiated in December 2001 by a leftist group who started to attack them with legal proceedings. The Indymedia group began a process of re-evaluation and took the decision to temporarily close the website down. The site is still “under construction” and the problems and conflicts must still be resolved but recently a judge decided the posting of the Latuff cartoon was not anti-semitic because it was not against the Jewish race, but against the state of Israel.

Indymedia Europe will continue to watch the actions of the state and remains concerned about the continued erosion of the human rights of those engaged in political dissent. Indymedia Europe is committed to showing solidarity when any local Indymedia faces legal challenges from institutions and the state.