The Guardian The independent media organisation that had its website servers seized by the FBI said today that the order to snatch its London-based
equipment originated in Italy.
Indymedia, a collective of anti-globalisation and single-issue sites, said it had been told that an Italian judge in charge of investigating alleged bomb threats against the EU Commission president,
Romani Prodi, had ordered the seizure.
The FBI raided the London offices of internet hosting company Rackspace last week, grabbing two drives which effectively shut down 21 sites including ones in the UK, Poland and Brazil.
In the face of silence from the FBI, Rackspace and the home secretary, David Blunkett, speculation had arisen that Swiss authorities had ordered the seizure after one of Indymedia's sites ran a picture of two Geneva policemen
involved in identifying demonstrators at a G8 summit two years ago.
But the independent organisation, which bills itself as "a network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate and
passionate tellings of the truth," said today that Italian judge Marina Plazzi ordered the raid after he was instructed to investigate postings on the site.
The servers are understood to contain information from a number
of independent journalists, including Mark Covell, who is suing the Italian police after he was left needing a blood transfusion after being attacked at the Genoa G8 summit in 2001.
Indymedia said it was aiming to file an
injunction banning the export of any information on its confiscated servers, which were returned to Rackspace's London offices two days ago.
The seizure provoked widespread criticism across the globe. The International
Federation of Journalists said it had written to Blunkett and his counterparts in America, Switzerland and Italy demanding to know why the seizure had been authorised.
This intervention is the responsibility of the British
authorities because it relates to a hosting company operating on their territory. Closure of websites is a serious step, the reasons for which should definitely be made public, said the letter.
NUJ, which is acting in conjunction with the federation over the protest, said the seizure was a "direct" affront to media freedom.
To take away a server is like taking away a broadcaster's transmitter. It is
simply incredible that American security agents can just walk into a London office and remove equipment, said the NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear. In this nightmare world they can apparently close the
operation down without any reason being given, without any chance to question or protest.
The FBI raid, which was based on a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that allows far-reaching police co-operation in the fields of
international terrorism, kidnapping and money-laundering, was also condemned in the US.
Robert McChesney, founder of Freepress, a non-profit independent media organization in the US said: This action
is an assault on freedom of the press that sets a troubling precedent of intergovernmental action to suppress independent journalism.