Thursday, June 30, 2005
Where Journalistic Privilege and Crime Collide - Literally
According to their statement:
"We are outraged at the actions of the police. They have completely disabled the entire Bristol Indymedia news service. By their actions they have undermined the principle of open publishing and free access to the media, thereby removing people's opportunity to read and report their own news. This situation has serious implications for anyone providing a news service on the Internet. We do not intend to let this stop us from continuing the project."And what was the news being reported?
This police action relates to an article posted on 17th June in which persons unknown claimed to have damaged cars being transported on a train.The whole story was previously reported here. The damaging of cars (interestingly described as "an action") was - dropping missiles from a rail overpass - occasionally fatal behaviour) and the Police (quite rightly) wanted to put a stop to it.
This article was considered by Bristol Indymedia to have breached the guidelines and was hidden.I'm unfamiliar with journalistic privelege in the UK, however would imagine the police request to be reasonable. I note they did ask nicely at first.
On Monday 20th the police contacted Bristol Indymedia with reference to this posting. Bristol Indymedia informed the police that they were in the process of instructing a solicitor to reply on their behalf. On Tuesday 21st the police contacted a Bristol Indymedia volunteer requesting the IP logs. Bristol Indymedia considered that the system was journalistic material covered by special provision under the law.
A solicitor from Liberty faxed the police explaining this provision. The police then contacted Bristol Indymedia to request a meeting which Bristol Indymedia agreed to. Ten minutes before the arranged meeting DI Bennett of British Transport Police cancelled the meeting and asked to postpone it.
The next police contact was the seizure of the server and the arrest of a Bristol Indymedia volunteer. The seizure of the server was carried out under a search warrant (police and criminal evidence act 1984, ss.8 and 15), not recognising the journalistic privilege.
In the minds of some however, basic law enforcement has something to do with "undermining the principle of open publishing and free access to the media"...
I am touched by the good working relationship between Indymedia activists and the English police. No really.