Germany's closure of Indymedia feeds debate over online censorship

The German government has shut down the German branch of Indymedia, a global network that purports to be a platform for grassroots journalism and online activism.

Germany’s Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière ordered the closure of on August 25, after a police raid on its supporters turned up knives, batons and catapults.

De Maizière said that the site’s supporters were linked to the violence that accompanied the G20 summit in Hamburg in early July.

According to a report from Reuters, the minister told a news conference that “for years they have been using this platform to express hate against those who think differently as well as representatives of this country.”

“They call for attacks against individuals and businesses,” De Maizière said.

The closure was sharply criticised by Patrick Schiffer, the chairman of Germany’s branch of the Pirate Party, an international political organisation that lobbies for direct democracy and internet transparency.

In a statement, Schiffer said that the site’s closure threatened to “stifle” free expression, and that the move was motivated by De Maizière’s desire to be seen as a conservative hardliner in Germany’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

Simon Kowalewski of the Pirate party’s Berlin branch went further, labelling the move “authoritarian” and an “attack” on free expression.

Key context:

  • Indymedia was one of Germany’s first examples of Open-Publishing.
  • The site’s closure comes against a backdrop of heightened political polarisation across the Western world.
  • Political violence, including at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, in the U.S., as well as in Hamburg, has been linked to a rise in online hate speech and radical rhetoric.
  • President Donald J. Trump lashed out at coverage of the Charlottesville violence, calling the journalists who criticised his response “truly dishonest people”.
  • Trump was criticised the following week by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for attacking the freedom of the press, including his repeated references to “fake news”.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s spokesman, Steffen Seibert,criticised the Charlottesville demonstration as “outrageous racism, anti-Semitism and hate in its most despicable form”.

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Closed Indymedia website from German government

website  W as closed on Friday.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière ordered the site was closed. According to news reports, De Maizière closed the site for “sowing hate against different opinions and representatives of the country. He   linked the site to left-wing extremist.

Patrick Schiffer for The Pirates Party   has issued a statement stating that the government’s task is to ensure security, but also free expression and press, according to the constitution.

Simon Kowalewski, forThe Pirate Party of Berlin described the closure as “a scandalous act of an authoritarian government”.

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