[Marxism] IMC-Winnipeg's Editorial Policy "Manifesto"

Richard Menec menecraj at shaw.ca
Fri Dec 10 10:56:21 MST 2004

[a lot of work has gone into developing this policy.  Any comments and
suggestions for improvement much appreciated!...... - Richard Menec]


The Editorial Policy "Manifesto"
The editorial policy of Independent Media Centre Winnipeg (IMC-Winnipeg) is
now available on the website, for public viewing. It has not been easy to
finalize, as many difficult questions are involved in adapting the model
developed in the U.S. to Canadian law and the changing conditions for
publishing with Internet technologies.

The policy as it is now stands is a 'living document', subject to change as
members continue to put forward suggestions for inclusion. So, we
acknowledge that this version (v.04.12.01c) is a 'rough and ready' summary
more than anything -- partly, an extended compromise between the policies of
IMC-Victoria and IMC-Quebec (CMAQ). It is informed, as much as possible, by
our understanding of the experiences of IMCs across Canada. It also provides
for a great deal of lattitude in decisionmaking for IMC-Winnipeg, an effort
to remain cognizant of our strictly voluntary membership and the simple fact
that we are not fully certain of what direction further developments will
lead us to.

Background history
Indymedia.org began with a very 'hands off' approach to the open publishing
model -- posting to the website was effectively unrestricted. This
innovative approach is afforded by both the technology of server-side
databases -- the whole website is automated and runs itself with no real
need for intervention -- and a legal definition of publishing that does not
yet include automated processes. In terms of ideals, the model has served to
facilitate what might be called a Chomskian anarcho-libertarianism.

As more and more IMCs formed and promulgated the Indymedia.org model,
unforeseen success also brought with it the attention of the 'radical Right'
(loosely defined). IMC volunteers were largely drawn from the
anti-globalization movement in which Indymedia.org was born, and tended to
post critical views informed by their activism.

The greater the prominence of those views, the greater the onslaught of the
radical Right. In the past two years, a few IMCs collapsed under constant
streams of posts from neo-Nazis and others struggled to put forward
pro-Palestinian views amidst organised attacks from pro-Zionism extremists.

Two examples: The main Indymedia.org website was forced to eliminate their
open newswire, chosing instead to publish features from member IMCs; White
supremacists have bragged about their 'success' in bringing IMCs down, and
although disorganized, continue to plan and enjoy attacks.

Other factors have been at work in the failures of the handful of IMCs that
have gone down, but the open publishing model has shown itself to be a
double-edged sword with a long and extremely sharp blade. Although the IMC
Network continues to grow worldwide, many IMCs began to adapt the model to
better protect their main mission -- to provide a platform that is useful to
activists and a home for alternative journalism. So, editorial policies have
been increasingly concerned with reserving the right to remove posts that
are counter-productive, even going so far as to require registration before
a post is allowed.

Accomodating our mission
It is our goal at IMC-Winnipeg to find that middle ground where we can build
a long-term solution and truly accomodate the wide-ranging views of
activists of all sorts, without subjecting them or our readers to abusive
posts and without reducing the accessibility of the open publishing service.

We continue to believe that by providing a single venue for all activists to
freely publish their views, we are encouraging greater understanding amongst
activists and a lively forum for the public to learn and develop their

It has taken a fair bit of time and effort to get to this point, and it will
likely take even more time and effort before we can safely assert that our
vision is making a significant contribution (to bringing about a better
world!). What we foresee at this moment is a need for encouraging
participation, by both seasoned activists and not-so experienced youth. It
is not hard to get involved, and to make it even easier, we hope to organize
workshops and skills-shares over the coming year.

We began this project with the common understanding that mainstream news
media was not adequately addressing the concerns of most Canadians, and in
many cases promoting highly questionable views. It is our intention to both
provide space for countering the mainstream news media, and to develop the
skills of individuals interested in community-based and activist journalism.
Further to this, we hope to develop and promote media awareness in Canada by
facilitating a 'news media monitoring and criticism' working group.

Difficult issues
We are well aware that deletions of even the most abusive posts will result
in cries of "censorship", particularly when the post is from a bigoted
individual who seeks to argue that Charter provisions for 'freedom of
expression' allows the expression of any opinion in any forum. However, we
are also aware that there is ample caselaw which asserts that such arguments
are fallacious, that we have -- in fact -- a responsibility to ensure that
we act reasonably to ensure harmful expressions are not encouraged in any

Our internal debate on the limits of and application of our current
editorial policy is not over. Rather it may have just begun! The issues
surrounding open publishing are many and complex, and we continue to sort
through the ideals that can be realized and the realities that cannot be

We hope to ultimately develop a resilient model of free and open discussion
which aids in developing creative and progressive solutions to the many
difficulties modern Canadian society faces. But first, we must be sure to
establish a long-term solution to the slide away from responsible
journalism -- a circumstance which, left unchecked, may well make free and
open discussion an impossible task.

Fighting for journalism
We believe that the primary role of any journalist should be: To seek the
truth; to be fair, honest and courageous in gathering, interpreting and
reporting information; to carefully check the accuracy and reliability of
the information they report; to remain clear about their personal values and
bias, and diligently identify the values and bias of any source; to treat
any source or any individual whose life may be affected by a report as human
beings deserving of respect and personal safety; to carefully avoid any
stereotyping or over-generalization based on gender, ethnicity, age,
religion, culture, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance,
and/or social or economic status; to be enthusiastic and unafraid to tell
the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience, even when
it is unpopular to do so; and to be vocal and uncompromising in resisting
any efforts -- by publishers, editors, or any others -- to oversimplify,
misrepresent, distort, selectively publish or recontextualize their work.

The editorial policy of IMC-Winnipeg is intended to uphold the above
definition of journalism, as well as to counter the slide of mainstream news
media into any dilution of it. In particular, we seek to oppose any case of
a corporate-owned news service which publishes or broadcasts biased,
reactionary or racist ideas -- ideas that frequently originate on the
radical Right or in ultra-conservative circles.

We are offended that many major news networks purport to be countering
'liberal media' and feel they are therefore free to report with little
regard for genuine balance or factual basis. Worse still, major news
networks then cater to and reinforce the beliefs of racists and xenophobes,
usually in the overt form of tolerating 'controversial opinions' and more
subtly by simply not taking bigoted politicians or interest-conflicted
corporations to task.

Further to this, we are extremely concerned that the post-9/11 climate has
placed undue pressure on mainstream journalists to not engage in
'controversial' topics, to accept without investigtion or without question
the publishing of media releases from major advertisers or government and
defence agencies.

To borrow from our friends to the south, Thomas Jefferson said, "If it were
left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers
or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer
the latter." (Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787)

We feel it is our reponsibility to ensure that if the latter should come to
pass, that 'newspapers' can be trusted. And we thank those who have helped
us in this effort, so far.

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