Following the publication of a communiqué claiming responsibility for a fire in a garage at a Grenoble police depot (gendarmerie) during the night of September 20th/21st, Indymedia Grenoble and Indymedia Nantes have been threatened by the French police. The administrators of these sites received emails from the Central Office for the Fight Against Crime Linked to Information Technology and Communication (OCLCTIC) demanding that the concerned articles be removed from the sites in under 24 hours, otherwise rendering the sites liable to blocking and dereferencing.
The communiqué’s authors explained that the garage fire had been carried out as "part of a wave of attacks in solidarity with people currently under trial" such as the Quai de Valmy police car arson. In this Grenoble arson attack, several dozen police vehicles were burned (torched).
Here is the communiqué itself:
This Thursday, at three in the morning, second day of the blazing car trial.
We penetrated the police barracks at Vigny-Musset. Set fire to six intervention vans and two logistics trucks. Over 1,500 square meters of the garage and the depot were ravaged.
This act is part of a wave of attacks in solidarity with people currently under trial.
Big hugs to Kara and Krem.
Thoughts are with Damien, recently beaten up by the cops.
Whatever the trial’s outcome, we’ll keep lashing out at the police and the justice system.
Our hostility is a spreading blaze.
"Provocation leading to acts of terrorism"
As the team at Indymedia Grenoble has pointed out in a communiqué, "this request (...) directly echoes the attack which took place in Germany on the 25th of August against Indymedia Linksunten, an attack which resulted in the police raid of four households and a self-administered social service center, citing similar pretexts." In both cases, the notion of 'terrorism' has been exploited by governments for the censorship of free media outlets. This is especially the case since the French police has based their decisions on the law of November 13th, 2014, which reinforces measures relative to the fight against terrorism, and evokes a "provocation leading to acts of terrorism or apology for such acts".
Although the notions of terrorism and provocation are not defined, since February 2015 French law has been allowing the disappearing of sites or of texts without due process, based upon a simple request by police administration. To our knowledge, it’s the first time that these measures are being wielded against alternative media outlets belonging to anti-authoritarian circles. Both sites targeted by the authorities’ threats decided to take down the incriminated responsibility claim. The moderating collectives of each of the two sites explain themselves in two distinct texts:
- Following Indymedia Linksunten, Indymedia Grenoble and Nantes (Indymedia Grenoble)
- Police Depot Ablaze, What's left of Internet Freedom? (Indymedia Nantes)
The use of anti-terrorism laws to specifically attack independent information sites hearkens back to the violence of the sentencing against the people accused in the Quai Valmy Car Arson Affair. It aims to dissuade activists just as much as it does to depoliticize acts.
For years, the sites in the Indymedia network have, among other things, lent visibility to the political nature of direct action. This new attack against free media outlets seeks to silence radical political opposition, and to criminalize the collectives and individuals who would communicate their political objectives without the distorting filter of traditional media outlets. This attack must also be viewed in light of the raids that, this week, targeted the anti-nuclear activists at Bure. Their computers, along with the photocopier that they had been using to print flyers were seized by the police. All means seem to have been mobilized to repress the autonomous expression of movements of struggle.
As we said in May 2015, following pursuits targeting the Toulousan site IAATA.info, "Against repression, information is a weapon." Despite the new forms of censorship being deployed, we will continue to facilitate and multiply spaces of autonomous expression. Support for Indy Nantes and Indy Grenoble. Solidarity with the accused from the Quai de Valmy Trial, and with those who throw a wrench in the works of the repressive machine.
First signatures: Rebellyon, La Rotative, Paris Luttes info, Expansive, Renversé, Rennes-info, Brest Médias libres, Marseille Infos Autonomes, Manif’Est, CQFD, Lundi-matin, Squat!net, Iaata, le Jura Libertaire, Jef Klak, Barrikade, zad.nadir, Enough is Enough ...
To sign this text, individually or as an organization (or simply to tell your support), you can contact this mail:
Paris, 25 September 2017 — Last Thursday [21 September 2017], the French Ministry of Interior ordered two Indymedia websites, one in Nantes and the other in Grenoble, to take down an anonymous post claiming responsibility for fire arson in a police hangar the previous night. According to the government, the hosted text constitutes a "provocation to terrorism". The two Indymedia sites decided to take down the litigious content, in order to avoid being put on the secret blocking list sent by the government to major ISPs in France to censor websites. While the text has also been relayed on the websites of traditional news outlets, the latter have apparently not been subject to the government's takedown request.
This act of extra-judicial censorship is as absurd as it is shocking. Absurd because the litigious text remains widely available online, including through major media sites, and because this affair gives way to a Streisand effect that gives it even more publicity. Shocking because this decision, adopted under the anti-terrorism law of November 2014, illustrates the dangerous consequences of the fight against terrorism, which allows the government to use exceptional measures to target activist groups or, as in the present case, independent and participatory media.
Although sanctioned by the Constitutional Council and the Council of State,  this system of administrative censorship of the Internet, supposedly subject to the oversight of the French data protection authority, is a disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of expression. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such an anti-terrorist measure, usually covered in secrecy, is implemented for content that is not associated with Islamist extremism. This extension is all the more worrying considering that through yet another bill against terrorism, the government is seeking to transpose into the ordinary law many exceptional measures which could hitherto only be applied during the state of emergency.
After the takedown of an Indymedia website in Germany last month, after the blocking of separatist websites in Catalonia last week, this new attack on freedom of expression on the Internet is part of a wider and worrying trend. As the European Court of Human Rights wrote in 1976, freedom of expression "applies not only to information or ideas welcomed with favor", but also "to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any part of the population". La Quadrature calls on the European Commission and the Council of Europe to condemn these police operations which undermine the continent's alleged commitment to freedom of expression.
- 1. La Quadrature du Net, FDN and the FDN Federation have seen their challenge against the implementation decree of this provision by the Council of State. See: https://exegetes.eu.org/dossiers/filtragecazeneuve/index.html