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Israel Police Shut Down Indymedia-Israel

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) states in a letter to
the Attorney General of Israel: ''The investigation against Indymedia
Israel has turned into intimidation, harming Freedom of Speech on the
Internet.''
Israel Police Shut Down Indymedia-Israel
Tuesday, 30 December 2003, 10:08 am
Article: Indymedia

See  http://indymedia.org.il/

(Translated from Hebrew )

Police investigators are attempting to throw responsibility on
Indymedia Israel's operators, for publications appearing in the "open
publishing zone" of the website. This is done illegally and against the
recommendations of a professional committee of the Israel Ministry of
Justice.

The Indymedia Israel website provides a free and open stage for surfers
on the Internet. Approximately three weeks ago, a surfer outside of
Israel published a caricature in the open publishing zone of the
website, in which the Israeli Prime Minister is portrayed passionately
kissing the leader of Nazi Germany. Subsequent to this, the Attorney
General of Israel ordered the opening of an investigation against the
website's administrators, for incitement and insulting a public figure.

Today, attorney Avner Pinchuk of the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel (ACRI) sent a letter to the Israel Attorney General demanding an
immediate end to the investigation. Attorney Pinchuk claims that the
moment the police realized the site's operators did not publish the
publication, it was illegitimate to harass them with an investigation.
Worse than this, the police investigators are attempting to 'convince'
the site's operators to commit themselves to continual censorship over
all publications in the open publishing zone of the site. By doing
this, the investigators deviate from their authority in an attempt to
impose on the Israeli Internet arena, norms which are against both the
law and the position of most professionals working in the field, in
Israel and abroad—including a special committee of the Israel Ministry
of Justice.

Electronic billboards, like that of Indymedia Israel, are very common
on the Internet and are used by many individuals and communities
wishing to exchange information and opinions freely. As opposed to the
global process of concentration of the media and debate in the hands of
a few, the public platform of the Internet provides a unique ground for
free, democratic dialogue. Indeed, in the open publishing zone, some
offensive expressions might appear, such as slander or abuse of
privacy. However, the general opinion of judges and legislators from
all over the world holds that, in almost all cases, responsibility
should not be laid upon the providers of Internet services—website
operators that allow an open publishing zone for the entire surfing
public. This is also the opinion of a special committee of the Israeli
Ministry of Justice, which presently discusses this issue.

Now however, when legislators and judges around the world deny that
website operators have civil responsibility for ''guest'' publications,
and at the very moment that the Ministry of Justice committee discusses
the design of legal arrangements that will explicitly anchor these
conceptions in law, the police investigation team makes up its own
norms, claiming criminal responsibility, and even worse, hurrying to
impose them in practice using an harassing and bullying investigation
against the website operators, demanding behavior according to a 'legal
policy' that they made-up.

Attorney Pinchuk adds that making the website operators supervise and
censor all publications that are published on the open platform will
bring the majority of websites to extinction. Many websites that don't
posses resources can not fulfill the demands for pre-supervision and
will rather cancel the open publishing system. Other sites attempting
to avoid potential indictment and interrogation will act to
aggressively censor, only to assure themselves against intimidation,
indictments and other charges. Therefore, analogous to what happened in
other public domains, dialogue on the Internet will be reduced to a
domain controlled and supervised by and for the few.

Fear of abuse on the internet, says Attorney Pinchuk, must not bring
about the destruction of the platform itself. We can assume that the
invention of the airplane assisted criminals occasionally to escape,
but the solution to this problem lies in the field of extradition law
and international agreements, not in the destruction of airplanes or
placing responsibility on pilots or stewardesses.

Therefore, Attorney Pinchuk requests a permanent end to the
investigation and a cessation of harassment against the website
operators for publications published by others on the open platform on
the website.

-------

Shamai Leibowitz, lawyer for Indymedia Israel, adds: ''This is a
dangerous attempt by the Israeli government, to quash Freedom of Speech
and the Freedom to Disseminate Information. It uses fear and threats in
order to suppress critique of the Israeli government and what is
occurring in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This police
investigation reminds us, to our deep regret, of the situation in the
book 1984 by George Orwell.''

homepage: homepage: http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0312/S00223.htm

We're all in the same boat 30.Dec.2003 08:12

Mike stepbystepfarm <a> mtdata.com

Treating this current situation as special misrepresents the reality that we are all in the same boat (and if you have been paying attention, you would have seen earlier stories about other IMCs in various "free" countries having similar troubles -- and let's not even go into those in countires where there is NO "free speech").

The problem is, "open publishing" ISN'T "open". There is no site that I know of which exercises no "editorial control" whatsoever and thus could escape the charge "you are the PUBLISHER of this material". And the reality is that our sites would be unworkable if truly "open" since they would then be inundated with commercial spam, porn, etc.

You think this is an ISRAELI problem? Bad, bad, Israelis? Well how long do you think an IMC site would survive HERE if it allowed something to stay up which was forbidden? You DON'T think we would be liable (as publishers) to be harrassed over the judgement call "you weren't fast enough removing that kiddie porn". Because it IS a "judgement call" after all and our defense "we don't have an adequate editorial staff to get to things quickly enough" CAN be countered by "that's YOUR problem -- if you can't fix it, shut down ".

Sorry, but I can think of plenty of reasons they will be able to hit our IMC sites here as soon as they feel like it. Look for trouble around election time? (lawyers specializing in political laws please comment --- aren't there legal problems with publishing ANONYMOUS campaign stuff)

This is why foreign country mirrors are important! 30.Dec.2003 10:28

Luke from DC

If you have the sole host for any website used to criticize and oppose a regime located inside that regime's jurisdiction you basicly operate at their pleasure and can be shut down at any time. It is possible to defeat and defy this by rehosting with other servers if done commercially or setting up new servers owned by other activists if directly hosted, but this becomes a race between resetting and re-raiding.

When the McSpotlight web site was set up to target McDeath for the McLibel case, it was mirrored in four nations in different parts of the world both to deter injunctions and make them ineffective. Similarily, I woudl favor setting up mirrors of Indymedia in a variety of nations not too friendly to Bush-and not relying on any one nation for obvious reasons. Perhaps France, the Netherlands, Russia, Syria, and Cuba woudl be a good choice of initial sites, as there is no agency on Earth capable of simultaniously shutting down access in all five nations, and an issue between progessives any any one of those regimes would not affect the others.

A simpler approach to doing the same thing would be some way of having every Indymedia site able to mirror any other indymedia site in an emergency. The diffifulty of simultanioulsy shutting down all U$ and European locations would again deter attack. Just think-if the Israeli regime knew shutting down Israeli Indymedia would just open a mirror in an Arab country, they would probably have left it alone so their spyware would retain access.

Never forget-we as a movement are at war with the most dangerous force the Earth has seen in 54 years-and the Enemy should be expected by us to take full advantage of any and all opportunities we allow to do us damage.

Solid Servers 30.Dec.2003 11:39

salaud

The two comments so far were very thoughtful. I just want to add that ultimately in a model where autonomous editors act collectively to maintain a site, such as PDX, there really is not an organization who could be labeled publishers in any case... but, there are individuals hosting equipment and bandwidth....these are often times not the same people. The ultimately responsiblity can, unfortunately, only be placed on the individuals hosting equipment and bandwidth. This fact definitely encourages the idea that sites should be mirrored in many different countries, by many individuals.

No matter what pressure may be brought against "editors", as long as the individuals hosting the servers and bandwidth remain solid the sites will stay up.

title misleading 30.Dec.2003 15:50

akb

The IMC Israel website did not shut down because of direct actions of the state. They shutdown voluntarily to seek other hosting because the former hosting provider, located within Israel, received threatening phone calls and was spooked by the news of possible legal action. See a post to the imc-process list by a member of IMC Israel describing what happened:

 http://lists.indymedia.org/mailman/public/imc-process/2003-December/005410.html

The article itself is fine, but the title made me think that the police had raided their hosting provider or something.

The Offending Cartoon 31.Dec.2003 00:21

Walt Disney

"Incitement"