Independent Media Center

Independent Media Center (Indymedia)

Indymedia logo
Type Open publishing
Format Online
Owner(s) None
Founded November 24, 1999
Political alignment Anti-corporate
Language English, Spanish, Greek French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Hebrew and Arabic
Headquarters Various

The Independent Media Center (also known as Indymedia or IMC) is a global open publishing network of journalist collectives that report on political and social issues. It originated during the Seattle anti-WTO protests worldwide in 1999 and remains closely associated with the global justice movement, which criticizes neo-liberalism and its associated institutions. Indymedia uses democratic media process that allows anybody to contribute.


According to the umbrella homepage, "Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage."[1] It aims to be an alternative to government and corporate media, and seeks to facilitate people being able to publish their media as directly as possible.[2]


Temporary IMC in Edinburgh covering protests at the 2005 G8 summit

The origins of Indymedia can be traced to the global justice protest Carnival Against Capitalism, which took place in over forty countries on June 18th, 1999.[3] Activists had networked globally using the internet, and had seen its publishing potential. Events could be reported as they happened, unmediated and without the need for the traditional news outlets. Plans came together for an Independent Media Centre to cover the upcoming Seattle WTO protests in November. The open publishing software used by the centre was developed from that used to report the carnival in Sydney.[4][5][6]

In late November 1999, the first Indymedia project was ready to cover the protests against the WTO meeting in Seattle, Washington. It acted as an alternative news source publishing up-to-the-minute reports on the protest days. Additionally it produced a newspaper and five documentaries.[7][6][8]

After Seattle the idea and network spread rapidly. By 2002, there were 89 Indymedia websites in 31 countries (including Palestine),[9] growing to over 150 by January 2006, not all of them currently active. The number of active centres grew from 142, in 2004, to 175 in 2010.[10]:426

By 2014 the network had declined significantly, with the number of active sites down to 68.[10]:426 A number of reasons for the decline have been put forward. In an article published by the journal Convergence Eva Giraud summarised some of the different arguments that had been made by academics and activists, which included informal hierarchy, bureaucracy, security issues including IP address logging, lack of regional engagement, lack of class politics, increase in web 2.0 social media use, website underdevelopment, decline in volunteers and decline in the global justice movement.[10]

Alternative Bristol pointed to security reasons for the decline. It stated that since server seizures Indymedia UK has been used less and less with on average only one new posting per week. It added activists are moving to alternative media content providers and more secure methods since the Snowden leaks. [11][12]

United Kingdom

In 2011, the UK national site saw a conflict in which direction it should take. One side wanted the site to remain the same, another group wanted it to become an aggregator for the regional centers.[10][13]

In February 2013, Ceasefire magazine noted a decline in the use of Nottingham Indymedia, stating that activist use of commercial social media had increased.[14]

In 2014, the Bristol site was archived and closed after police server seizures.[15][16]


Seizure of servers by the FBI 2004

On October 7, 2004, the FBI took possession of several server hard drives used by a number of IMCs and hosted by US-based Rackspace Managed Hosting. The servers in question were located in the United Kingdom and managed by the British arm of Rackspace, but some 20 mainly European IMC websites were affected, and several unrelated websites were affected, including the website of a Linux distribution.[17] No reasons were given at first by the FBI and Rackspace for the seizure, in particular IMC was not informed. Rackspace claimed that it was banned from giving further information about the incident.[18] Some, but not all, of the legal documents relating to the confiscation of the servers were unsealed by a Texas district court in August 2005, following legal action by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The documents revealed that the only action requested by the government was to surrender server log files.[19][20]

A statement by Rackspace[21] stated that the company had been forced to comply with a court order under the procedures laid out by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which governs international police co-operation on "international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering". The investigation that led to the court order was said to have arisen outside of the U.S. Rackspace stated that they were prohibited on giving further detail. Agence France-Presse reported FBI spokesman Joe Parris,[22] who said the incident was not an FBI operation, but that the subpoena had been issued at the request of the Italian and the Swiss governments. Again, no further details on specific allegations were given. UK involvement was denied in an answer given to a parliamentary question posed by Richard Allan, Liberal Democrat MP.[23]

Indymedia pointed out that they were not contacted by the FBI and that no specific information was released on the reasons for seizing the servers. Indymedia also sees the incident in the context of "numerous attacks on independent media by the US Federal Government", including a subpoena to obtain IP logs from Indymedia at the occasion of the Republican National Conference,[24] the shut-down of several community radio stations in the US by the FCC, and a request by the FBI to remove a post on Nantes IMC containing a photograph of alleged undercover Swiss police.[25]

The move was condemned by the International Federation of Journalists, who stated that "The way this has been done smacks more of intimidation of legitimate journalistic inquiry than crime-busting" and called for an investigation.[26] Criticism was also voiced by European civil liberties organisation Statewatch[27] and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC).[28] Mathew Honan commented in Salon that "This kind of thing doesn’t happen to Wolf Blitzer".[29] EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl compared the case with Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service.[29]

In Italy, the federal prosecutor of Bologna Marina Plazzi confirmed that an investigation against Indymedia had been opened because of suspected "support of terrorism", in the context of Italian troops in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. The investigation was triggered after 17 members of the coalition government belonging to the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale, including Alessandra Mussolini, demanded that Indymedia be shut down. A senior party member and government official had announced the co-operation with US authorities, and party spokesman Mario Landolfi welcomed the FBI's seizure of the Indymedia servers. Left-wing Italian politicians denounced the move and called for an investigation.[30]

United Kingdom

Bristol server seizure 2005

Graffito in Bristol, United Kingdom advertising the local chapter of Indymedia with the slogan "Read it, write it, your site, your news"

Servers in the UK was seized by police in June 2005. An anonymous post on the Bristol Indymedia server, came to police attention for suggesting an "action" against a freight train carrying new cars as part of a protest against cars and climate change in the run up to that year's Gleneagles G8 summit.[31] The police claimed that the poster broke the law by "incitement to criminal damage", and sought access logs from the server operators. Despite being warned by lawyers that the servers were "journalistic equipment" and subject to special laws,[32] the police proceeded with the seizure and a member of the Bristol Indymedia group was arrested.[33] Indymedia was supported in this matter by the National Union of Journalists, Liberty[34] and Privacy International, along with others. This incident ended several months later with no charges being brought by the police and the equipment returned.[35]

Prior to the original server being returned, Bristol Indymedia was donated a replacement server by local IT co-operative, Bristol Wireless.[36]

Bristol server seizure 2014

In August 2014, Bristol Indymedia's servers were seized by police after arsonists used the site to claim responsibility for a fire at firearms training centre.[16]

United States

A Greek riot policeman wielding a baton in the direction of a photographer during a protest at the Athens courts, as published by the Athens Indymedia[37]

On August 15, 2000, the Los Angeles Police Department temporarily shut down the satellite uplink and production studio of the Los Angeles Independent Media Center on its first night of Democratic National Convention coverage, claiming explosives were in a van in the adjacent parking lot.[38]

Subpoena for IP addresses

On January 30, 2009, one of the system administrators of the server that hosts received a grand jury subpoena from the Southern District of Indiana federal court. The subpoena asked the administrator to provide all "IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information" for every visitor to the site on June 25, 2008.[39] The subpoena also included a gag order that stated that the recipient is "not to disclose the existence of this request unless authorized by the Assistant U.S. Attorney."[39] The administrator of could not have provided the information because Indymedia sites generally do not keep IP address logs. The Electronic Frontier Foundation determined that there was no legal basis for the gag order, and that the subpoena request "violated the SCA's restrictions on what types of data the government could obtain using a subpoena."[39] Under Justice Department guidelines, subpoenas to news media must have the authorization of the attorney general. According to a CBS News blog, the subpoena of was never submitted to the Attorney General for review.[40] On February 25, 2009, a United States Attorney sent a letter to an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation stating that the subpoena had been withdrawn.[40]


In July, 2001 at the 27th G8 summit in Genoa, Indymedia journalists were seriously assaulted at the Diaz school where Indymedia had set up a temporary journalism center and radio station. Twenty-nine Italian police officers were indicted for grievous bodily harm, planting evidence and wrongful arrest during a night-time raid on the Diaz School, and thirteen were convicted.[41][42]

On June 1, 2003, Indymedia journalist Guy Smallman was seriously injured by a police grenade[43][44] in Geneva. He was covering protests against the G8 summit in nearby Evian for Indymedia and Image Sans Frontière.

Brad Will shooting

Indymedia banner in the Netherlands protesting the Oaxaca shootings
Main article: Brad Will

On October 27, 2006, New York–based journalist and indymedia volunteer Bradley Roland Will was killed along with two Mexican protesters in the city of Oaxaca. People had been demonstrating in the city since May as part of an uprising prompted by a teachers strike. Lizbeth Cana, attorney general of Oaxaca, claimed the conflict was caused by the protesters and that the gunmen who engaged them were upset residents from the area. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, however, claimed the men may have been local police. Reporters Without Borders condemned the actions of the Mexican government in allowing the accused to go free.[45] Protesters also allege that the men were police and not local residents. Associated Press alleged that the protesters also had guns, describing the conflict as a "shootout".

In April 2008, in Brazil, IMC and (posthumously) Brad Will received the Medalha Chico Mendes de Resistência (Chico Mendes Resistance Medal in Portuguese) from the Brazilian humanitarian group Tortura Nunca Mais (No more torture in Portuguese) for their contributions to human rights and a more fair society.[46][47]


Indymedia collective at Mato Grosso Federal University in Cuiabá, Brazil hosting a free radio broadcast in 2004.

The Active software that was used as the basis for the first Indymedia centers' websites was written for Active Syndey. It went live in January 1999 featuring open publishing, calendars, events and contacts. In March, around one hundred Sydney organisations were listed.[48] The Active software consisted of a number scripts and used the LAMP software stack.[49][48]

In June 1999, the software's news feed feature was used to published stories, pictures and videos from the Carnival Against Capitalism.[4][5] The Active software was then further development by an international collective of activists that included personnel from Active Sydney and Free Speech TV. It was readied to be used for the Seattle Indymedia center set up to cover the WTO protests that November.[4][5][50][51][52][53][54]

In 2001, Matthew Arnison, one of the original authors of Active compared open publishing to libre software.[55]

The original Active software has been forked a number of times.[56] Other Indymedia content management systems have been written from the ground up. By 2004, Mir, active-sf and dadaIMC were the most widely adopted software solutions.[57] Hyperactive was used by Demark, London and Nottingham centers.[58]

Some centers use general purpose content management systems such as Drupal used by Bolivia and Quebec Indymedia centers.[59]

Notable custom Indymedia content management systems include Oscailt used by Ireland indymedia, version 3.6 was released in March 2016.[60]


Indymedia collectives distribute print, audio, photo, and video media. They run open publishing websites which allow anyone to upload news articles. The content of an Indymedia collectives is determined by its participants, both the users who post content, and members of the local collective who administer the site. Centres worldwide are run autonomously, however they all provide copyleft content. This rule means content on Indymedia sites can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes.[61]

Streamed Indymedia content was shown on Free Speech TV in 2004.[62]

Indymedia websites publish in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, French, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew.[63]

Content and focus

Belgian Indymedia's headquarters in Brussels

The origins of Indymedia centres themselves came out of protests against the concentrated ownership and perceived biases in corporate media reporting. The first Indymedia node, attached as it was to the Seattle anti-corporate globalization protests, was seen by activists as an alternative news source to that of the corporate media, which they accused of only showing violence and confrontation, and portraying all protesters negatively.[64][65][66][67][68][69]

Reports between 1999 and 2001 tended to focus on up-to-the-minute coverage of protests, from local demonstrations to summits where anti-globalization movement protests were occurring.. In 2007, protest coverage was still published.[70]

Indymedia run a global radio project which aggregates audio RSS feeds from around the world.[71]

Organizational structure

Indymedia is formed of local collectives. They are run autonomously, but common rules include openness, inclusiveness and diversity. Editorial policies, locally chosen by any Indymedia collectives often involve removing articles which are believed to promote racism, sexism, hate speech, and homophobia.[72] A clearly stated editorial policy is expected to be available on collectives' websites.[72]


Views on Israel and Jews

In a 2002 op-ed, alter-globalisation activist Naomi Klein criticised Indymedia for perpetuating conspiracy theories about the Jews, including supposed involvement with the September 11 attacks and re-posting from the infamous hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[73] In the same year, the Swiss edition of Indymedia was accused of anti-Semitism by Aktion Kinder des Holocaust, which unsuccessfully sued them for publishing a Carlos Latuff cartoon of a Jewish boy in the Warsaw Ghetto saying "I am Palestinian," though this was criticized by IMC as an attempt to stifle criticism of Israel in Switzerland.[74][75][76]

Google temporarily stopped including some IMCs in Google News searches due to the use of the term "zionazi". Marissa Mayer, at the time the product manager of Google News, explained the removal by describing the term as a "degrading, hateful slur" and refused to index the Bay Area IMC because it had appeared there. While SF Bay Area Indymedia agreed that it "could be considered hate speech", they considered this a double standard due to Google News indexing articles using racist and defamatory language against Arabs and Muslims, such as the term "Islamofascism".[77]

See also

Further reading


  1. "Independent Media Center - - ((( i )))".
  2. Haas, Tanni (July 1, 2007). "Do citizen-based media of communication advance public journalism's ideals? Evidence from the empirical research literature" (fee required). International Journal of Communication. New York: Gale Group. Retrieved August 11, 2009.
  3. Katherine Ainger, "Global Carnival Against Capital", Z Magazine, September 1999.
  4. 1 2 3 "chat with Matthew Arnison about indymedia (pre-)history".
  5. 1 2 3 "j18 sydney - page1". April 25, 2006.
  6. 1 2 "J18 1999". Days of Dissent!. 2004. Archived from the original on May 8, 2005.
  7. First ever Indymedia post, made November 24, 1999 Archived December 3, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. "Contact Page". January 19, 2013.
  9. "Wayback Machine – circa September 1, 2002". Archived from the original on September 1, 2002. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Giraud, Eva (November 1, 2014). "Has radical participatory online media really 'failed'? Indymedia and its legacies". Convergence. 20 (4): 419–437. doi:10.1177/1354856514541352 via
  11. "Indymedia UK has closed. Meeting to discuss a replacement". June 23, 2015.
  12. "Facebook killed the internet star: reflections on radical media - Corporate Watch".
  13. "SchNEWS 770 - 6th May 2011 - Indymedia: From the Rubble of Double Trouble".
  14. "Indymedia: It's time to move on". February 17, 2013.
  16. 1 2 "Anarchist website Bristol Indymedia to close following police raid". August 29, 2014.
  17. FBI seizes Indymedia servers, Sydney Morning Herald, 2004-10-08
  18. "Independent Media Center - - ((( i )))".
  19. "Secret Documents About Indymedia Server Disappearance Unsealed". August 2, 2005.
  20. John Lettice, US court files reveal Italian link to Indymedia server grab, The Register, August 3, 2005, Retrieved August 25, 2005
  21. Quoted in FBI Seizes IMC Servers in the UK, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  22. News website Indymedia says FBI seized server
  23. MP Richard Allan's website Archived December 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. American Civil Liberties Union : Statement of Brian Szymanski Regarding Secret Service Investigation of Indymedia Archived October 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  25. "Independent Media Center - - ((( i )))".
  26. "More Intimidation Than Crime-Busting" Says IFJ As Police Target Independent Media Network, IFJ press release, October 8, 2004, Retrieved August 28, 2007 Archived February 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. Was the seizure of Indymedia's servers in London unlawful or did the UK government collude? , Statewatch Press release, October 2004, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  28. FBI seizes Indymedia servers in the United Kingdom, bulletin, October 8, 2004, Retrieved August 28, 2007
  29. 1 2 Who nabbed Indymedia’s computers? The freewheeling network of Web sites has a history of clashing with authority. But usually it knows who is trying to shut it up. By Mathew Honan, Nov 9, 2004
  30. Damiano Valgolio, The Censorers Trace leads to Rome and Zurich, Junge Welt, October 11, 2004, cited at Indymedia to U.S., U.K., Swiss and Italian Authorities: "Hands Off Our Websites", Retrieved August 25, 2007
  31. John Leyden, Legal row after police seize Bristol Indymedia server, The Register, June 28, 2005
  32. PRESS RELEASE : Bristol Indymedia Server Threatened, Bristol IMC press release, June 24, 2005, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  33. Indymedia server seized in raid, BBC News, June 28, 2005, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  34. "Freedom of press under attack?". BBC Bristol News. BBC NEWS. June 30, 2005. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  35. imcvol (May 27, 2008). "Bristol Indymedia Summer Newsletter". Bristol Indymedia. BIMC. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  36. Bristol, Wireless. "Indymedia Returns! :)". Bristol Wireless. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  37. "Φωτογραφίες από τα Δικαστήρια και το επεισόδιο που δημιούργησαν οι μπάτσοι".
  38. [Imc-Nyc] Lapd Blocks Satellite Feed Of Indymedia Coverage Of Dnc In Los Angeles
  39. 1 2 3 Electronic Frontier Foundation "Anatomy of a Bogus Subpoena", Retrieved on 2009-11-11.
  40. 1 2 Declan McCullagh "Justice Dept. Asked For News Site's Visitor Lists", Retrieved on 2009-11-11.
  41. Arens, Marianne (November 24, 2008). "Italy: Judgement in G8 police raid trial". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
  42. "Campaigners fear Italy G8 trouble". BBC News. December 5, 2008. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
  43. "Photographer injured by riot police in Geneva". Archived from the original on September 25, 2006., NUJ report, June 2, 2003, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  44. New Pics: G8-"Rabbit Hunt" on Guy Smallman, Switzerland IMC, June 10, 2006, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  45. Two suspects in cameraman Brad Will's murder freed for lack of evidence, RSF press release, December 5, 2006, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  46. CMI Brasil – CMI é homenageado pelo Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais com a medalha Chico Mendes
  47. CMI Brasil – [Rio de Janeiro] Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais homenagea o CMI com a medalha Chico Mendes
  48. 1 2 Meikle, Graham (February 4, 2014). "Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet". Routledge via Google Books.
  49. "active-sydney - about us". April 22, 2006.
  50. "FreeSpeech Internet Television". October 14, 2001.
  51. "DO-IT-YOURSELF GEOPOLITICS". April 27, 2007.
  52. "On the origin and context of the indymedia network : Indybay".
  53. Benjamin Mako Hill
  54. "RealTime Arts - Magazine - issue 95 - message is medium is message".
  55. "Open publishing is the same as free software". April 25, 2006.
  57. "active software". June 14, 2008.
  58. "Hyperactive - Overview -". May 10, 2012.
  59. "WebHome < Devel < Indymedia Documentation Project". October 11, 2007.
  60. "Oscailt Home Page".
  61. "PrinciplesOfUnity < Global < Foswiki". March 3, 2016.
  62. "Indymedia Newsreal: Indymedia On FSTV".
  63. "Indymedia's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". Indymedia Documentation Project. July 25, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2009.
  64. "Independent+Media+Center" "Archives". The Seattle Times.
  65. "Independent+Media+Center" "Archives". The Seattle Times.
  66. Shukovsky, Paul (August 5, 2001). "Media center fighting FBI over Web data". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  67. Shukovsky, Paul (April 23, 2001). "FBI raids media center". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  68. "An overflow crowd vents its anger at city, police".
  69. Seattle, National Lawyers Guild WTO Legal Group. "Waging War on Dissent" (PDF). Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  70. "Climate Camp 2007". UK Indymedia. March 4, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
  71. "Radio Indymedia". Retrieved August 11, 2009.
  72. 1 2 Shine, Simon (July 22, 2008). "Principles of Uity". Retrieved June 11, 2009.
  73. Naomi Klein. "'Sharon, Le Pen, and Anti-Semitism'". Retrieved October 25, 2010.
  74. Alex Schärer: Linke und Antisemitismus: Der Indymedia-Streit – Aufpassen, was im Kübel landet, Die Wochenzeitung, April 4, 2002
  75. Junge Welt: Ärger im Internet: Wegen antisemitischer Beiträge hat Indymedia Schweiz den Betrieb gestoppt, February 25, 2002
  76. Aktion Kinder des Holocaust: Is this cartoon by Latuff, published at indymedia-switzerland, anti-Semitic? An analysis
  77. "Google News Bans SF Bay Area Indymedia Over Israel/Palestine Controversy : Indybay".
  78. "The Birth Of Digital Indy Media". February 9, 2015.
  79. Meikle, Graham (February 4, 2014). "Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet". Routledge via Google Books.
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