Censorship at NYC Indymedia?

Our contributor Mahmood Ketabchi writes:

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 it. Two days later, to my astonishment, I noticed that the article was removed from the website.

I e-mailed the moderator of the website and inquired why they took my article off the site. In response to my question, I received an e-mail 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 e-mail, on the other hand I found the reply to be contradictory and somewhat 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 e-mailed them again and asked if the moderator made any decision regarding my article. For the second time, they ignored my e-mail. 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 member 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 my article from their website? It is quite bizarre 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 reads “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 succumb 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.

See our last post on the cartoon controversy.

  1. list posts vs. newswire posts
    First I want to say that I don’t moderate NYC newswire posts nor their mailing lists. I’m just writing this to clarify something for you.

    I don’t know why your newswire post was hidden. But I do know why you got the “post is being held until the list moderator can review it for approval”. The “post” in this case is NOT the article you submitted to the NYC newswire. The post referred to there is the /email/ you sent to whatever indymedia mailing list you emailed. And the #1 reason for list moderation is fucking spam. Many mailing lists have the policy that you can’t mail to them unless you are /subscribed/ to the list. If you are subscribed you can email to the list. This is to prevent (most) spambots. The vast majority of indymedia mailing lists are public/open. See the full list here:
    http://lists.indymedia.org/

    While that doesn’t answer your “why was my article hidden?” question, perhaps it will clarify a bit on why you got the (automated) response you did.

    I suggest subscribing to the list you want to email, then once subscribed, send the email.

    This appears to be the appropriate list in the case of NYC:
    http://lists.indymedia.org/mailman/listinfo/imc-nyc-web

    Good luck,

    -Jeff

    1. NYC Indymedia
      Jeff, thnak you for your clarification. As you said, it does not explain anything about my concern why they removed my article from NYC Indymedia after two days it was posted on the website.

      My first email in which I inquired about my article was send to the following address imc-nyc-web [at] lists.indymedia.org which is for “comments or questions about newswire moderation.” I was not planning to post anything that needed to be moderated;I was just asking them a simple question. My impression was that it was a contact email address for people to ask question about NYC Indymedia policies regarding newswire moderation. Period. Do I need to join a list to ask question? If that is the case, why is there a need to do that? I do not quite get it.

      You seem to know your way around NYC Indymedia. Do you know if NYC Indymedia has an email address that I can use to contact them and ask them my question? I would really appreciate your help.

      By the way, I have no problem with moderation, and I was not complaining about it. Sometimes, it helps facilitate a healthy discussion.

      Thanks,

      Mahmood

      1. The imc-nyc-web@lists.indymed
        The imc-nyc-web@lists.indymedia.org is not a private mailbox, it is a mailing list. You can see it’s archives here:
        http://lists.indymedia.org/pipermail/imc-nyc-web/

        Mailing lists typically only allow users to post to them since spam has reigned. So when you mailed imc-nyc-web@ you got the automated “you must be subscribed to post”. They meant subscribed to the mailing list, not to the newswire or the website or whatever.

        So the message you sent goes into a queue and waits until some VOLUNTEER bothers to go through all the messages and separate the wheat from the chaff. Depending on how attentive they are the wait can be between a few minutes to eternity. But if you subscribe to the list, it goes through immediately and you don’t have to wait for a moderator. This isn’t imc-nyc specific–this is true across IMCs and mailing lists in general (e.g. many Free Software projects do the same thing). So you don’t /have/ to subscribe to a list to send a message to it, it just makes it faster in general.

        Their contact page:
        http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/static/contactus.html
        shows you mailed to the correct address.

        In sum, you are dealing with a volunteer organization–a volunteer will have to take time out of their day to answer your question. It may not happen as fast as you like. If you don’t get your issue resolved there, you can try other (appropriate) lists. The full lists (plus their archives) are here:
        http://lists.indymedia.org

        -Jeff

  2. I must also add that when I s
    I must also add that when I submitted a comment to your post HERE ON YOUR WEBSITE, I got this:

    “Your comment has been queued for moderation by site administrators and will be published after approval.”

    I find that ironic considering your complaint about IMC-NYC. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    -Jeff

    1. Thanx for the explanation
      Our only reason for post moderation is fucking spam. Although we do consider (narrowly-defined) hate speech as spam. When in doubt, we err on the side of free speech.

      In this spirit, we posted Mahmood’s piece unedited. So, any ironic aspect is not intentional on our part.