Censorship at NYC Indymedia
by Mahmood Ketabchi
April 02, 2006
The cartoons of Muhammad created much discussion and debate within the progressive movement. I wrote two articles regarding the cartoon crisis and posted both of them on the NYC Indymedia. On March 1st, I posted my second article "US Left Nationalists Join the Islamists against Freedom." In this article, I criticized the section of the US left which supported the Islamists' campaign against freedom of speech and the right to blasphemy. The article generated some pro and con debate among people who read the article. Two days later, to my astonishment, I noticed that the article was removed from the website. I emailed the moderator of the website and inquired why they took my article off the site. In response to my question, I received an email from NYC Indymedia. I was told that my article "is being held until the list moderator can review it for approval." It stated that the reason it was being held was because it was a "Post by non-member to a member-only list." Further, I was notified that "Either the message will get posted to the list, or you will receive notification of the Moderator's decision."
On the one hand, I was pleased to see that I did get a response to my email, on the other hand I found the reply to be contradictory and somehow disturbing. It did not make any sense to me. If only members can post articles why is there a need for approval anyway? So, I emailed them back and expressed my concern and asked how I can become a member. I waited for a response, but I got none. I checked the NYC Indymedia website just to see if they re-posted my article, and I could not find it. Thus, I emailed them again and asked if the moderator made any decision regarding my article. For the second time, they ignored my email.
I decided to look at NYC Indymedia policy guideline regarding open publishing, and I found nothing that would prohibit me from publishing my article. It was pretty clear to me that the people who run the NYC Indymedia removed my article because they found its content to be disagreeable. I brought up my concern with a few friends. They were also surprised that I was told only members could post article on the NYC Indymedia website. As I listened to them, my conclusion about censorship by NYC Indymedia was confirmed. Why else would they take cut my article from their website?
It is quite bizzare to see how a discussion about free speech was censored by a website that claims to stand up for freedom of speech!! NYC Indymedia has a motto that says "Free Media for Free People." What sort of freedom is it when they censor a voice that defends unconditional freedom of speech and is critical of people who choose to side with political Islam, a brutal and barbaric right-wing movement that is ready to crush any dissenting voice that stands firm in defense of freedom.
The independent media movement came about and flourished as a radical grassroots response to censorship by mainstream and corporate media that succumbs to the US government control. But, is NYC Indymedia still truly committed to freedom of speech? I strongly doubt that. At least, that has not been my experience. How many other people have the same experience as mine I do not know.
I withhold further judgment about the NYC Indymedia because I am not familiar with the politics of the people who run the organization. However, I emphatically express my dismay and condemnation at this censorship of my article. This example of censorship at NYC Indymedia is a cause for concern for anyone who truly supports the idea of free media as a vehicle for expressing dissenting opinion.