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Britain's Left Defeats Itself Again.

Watchitdie | 04.05.2011 14:06 | Indymedia | Repression | Birmingham | Liverpool | Sheffield

On November 30th 1999 thousands of anti-capitalist/globalisation activists gathered in Seattle, USA to protest against and successfully shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). A large part of their grievance was that the WTO was effectively operating in secret with no reporting of the decisions it was making and the effect those decisions were having across the world. So by way of a solution a group of activists set up the Independent Media Centre or "Indymedia" for short. The idea was create a network of un-moderated, open publishing websites so people from all over the world could share news about the decisions being made in the name of globalisation and the actions that were being taken to protest against them. The Independent Media Centre was probably one of the most successful ideas to come out of the Seattle protests and there are now 180 Indymedia sites across the world in places as diverse as Japan, Israel, Kenya and Burma making Indymedia the blueprint for the sort of "Citizen Journalism" that's become so fashionable recently.

In the UK Indymedia has been particularly successful with 11 regional sites publishing local news and a national site that gathers up all the news from the regional sites and adds to it international news. Although as always with open publishing the quality is patchy at best a lot of what is published on the UK national site is so high quality that it has begun to be used by the mainstream media as a wire service alongside Associated Press and Reuters. In fact a lot of the stories you may have read in national newspapers, especially the ones about Climate Camp and Mark Kennedy - the undercover policeman, have been lifted straight from Indymedia and then re-published with minimal editing.

Obviously this free dissemination of uncensored news coupled with the fact that the un-moderated, anonymous open publishing model makes it nearly impossible for the collective that runs the site to be held legally liable for it's content means that Indymedia is hated by the British authorities and there have been various attempts to shut it down over the years. These efforts have included multiple police raids and illegal seizure (read theft) of computer equipment but most recently have focused on police officers serving with a dedicated unit known as the "National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NECTU)" either posting articles calling for more moderation or articles that are so deeply offensive that they cause others to call for more moderation.

At around the time that all those undercover police officers were operating within the UK activist scene these calls for tighter moderation took hold among the Indymedia collective fuelled by the usual mix of paranoia, ego and passionately held political beliefs. Eventually this led to two distinct groups forming within the collective. One known as the Mayday collective wanted to keep Indymedia pretty much as it is while the other known as the BeTheMedia (BTM) collective wanted to shut down Indymedia completely and replace it with a tightly moderated, isolationist site that would focus on British news for British people. Bizarrely these two groups reached a consensus decision that on May 1st 2011 the UK Indymedia site would gradually be wound down and replaced by two new sites; Mayday and BeTheMedia.

When May 1st arrived the BTM group insisted that the Indymedia site be shutdown immediately. This went against the consensus decision so the Mayday group locked the BTM group out of the running of the site and kept it going. There is currently a three week suspension on the site shutdown to allow the factions to meet in person to try and solve their differences. I expect that the Indymedia site will remain open after that because if the BTM group want to go and do something different then the Internet is a big place so there's nothing stopping them and they don't need to shut down Indymedia to do it.

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Hide the following 4 comments

Long live IMC UK

04.05.2011 15:13

I can't tell you how much Indymedia UK is part of my life. I detest the self-important smugness, or hysterical tone, of the mainstream media news, but as I work, I love to check my IMC UK Newswire to see if that little blue-link appears, giving me instant access to the latest news and analysis (without the editorial censorship), published by people like me, for people like me. While some people say the regional IMCs are more relevant, the sheer diversity and volume of people and groups posting their news means that the Newswire is constantly updating, buzzing if you will, which the regionals just can't do. Its anarchic (in a good way).

Sure there's lots of nonsense, Trolls, badly translated pieces, etc, etc. But then there's lots of genuine stuff: random students telling their stories after the 2010 protests, informative comments (between the Trollish negativity), non-activists telling their experiences of activist events, and so on. It provides us with the rich mix of opinions and perspectives that an editorialised version would not; it's almost objective. Who should decide what's conspiracy theory and what's valid opinion? We can't exist in an activist bubble if what we really want to do is empower everyone; the only way is to allow anyone to publish (within reason of course - there are principles we all uphold).

I know there has been a long process behind the scene; I have not been part of that. However, as a reader, I love the IMC Newswire; as a writer, I only publish online with IMC UK. Therefore I say, Long Live IMC UK.


BeTheMedia never wanted to shut down Indymedia UK

04.05.2011 16:58

What the faction that later became known as BeTheMedia actually tried to do, was leave the UK site exactly where it is, and have an aggregated site on top of it, the one that is now at

That site was supposed to pull together content from local sites that are not part of the UK site, and the ones that are as well as the national wire. It was supposed to be more inclusive and not exclude local features, the way Indymedia UK has done for technical reasons for years.

The UK site was strongly represented in the aggregator, with a national wire as well as local wires for each of the regions.

There was also debate to widen out the project and include other radical media collectives.

All the above was agreed at an Indymedia UK meeting last summer. It was members of Mayday who stopped the agreement, again, after it was made, claiming there was no 'consensus'. A meeting had made this discussion in consensus with no objections. Maday members had been present at that meeting.

This account is extremely one sided, and partial with Mayday, repeating their allegations that anyone wanted to shut down Indymedia UK. This is not true.


btm: just do it cos i'm lovin it

04.05.2011 17:48

So if btm really doesn't want the site shut down that why don't you just fork off and get on with producing radical media and developing your site rather than coming here to whine?

Please respect that the fork happened almost 4 days ago now, not exactly as you wanted but it happened.

Facts are stubborn things.

You wanted a fork.

You got a fork.

Now please just fork off.

forked off

exactly BTM

04.05.2011 18:03

fork off and leave us alone, this site is essential for us, we are living the revolution and we need this site. this whole affair smacks of police infiltration.......fork off BTM no one is interested, certainly not on this site anyway! and i checked the BTM site and its shit. sorry to get personal, but it is. FORK OFF.

ha ha, love it.