Building Indymedia

by Eric Galatas

from the book

Project Censored 2001

by Peter Phillips and Project Censored

Seven Stories Press, 2001, paper, p331


"By not having to answer to the monster media monopolies, the independent media has a life's work, a political project, and a purpose: to let the truth be known. This is increasingly important in the globalization process. Truth becomes a knot of resistance against the lie."

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos La Realidad, Chiapas; January 31st, 1997 from Our Word is Our Weapon (Seven Stories Press, 2000)


N30 stands for November 3O, 1999. This was the day that thousands of activists from across the globe planned to shut down the "crown jewel" of corporate globalization, a Breton/Woods and GATT progeny known as the World Trade Organization (WTO). Labor, indigenous rights groups, environmentalists, organizations of faith, youth, anarchists, and more all made their way to Seattle to proclaim in a very loud voice that so-called free trade policies were costing the majority of people on the planet more than they could, or would, pay.

And the activists were creative. Ready to don turtle costumes, drop banners from high-rises and from expansion bridges, this unprecedented coalition intended to pull out every trick in the book to wow mainstream news outlets, to spread their message by becoming that day's media darlings on front pages the world over.

Independent media activists weren't convinced that corporate media would provide a platform for anti-corporate globalization critics. Conglomerate mergers had shrunk the number of corporate owned outlets from 50 in 1986, to fewer than 10 at the end of the millennium. PBS, NPR, and virtually every other supposedly public interest media organization had been successfully de-fanged by the time 85,000 activists put on costumes, carried signs of protest, and locked down in front of the Paramount Theater in the center of Seattle for the WTO opening ceremonies.

On N30, corporate coverage of the largest protests seen on U.S. soil since the 1960s turned out to be pretty much as the indy press had predicted. And from the point of view of the powerful, it almost worked.

Reporters bypassed the arguments of WTO critics, and instead gave focus to select images of mayhem and disaster. CNN reported that police were not using rubber bullets against window-smashing protestors-citing official police sources, of course. Everyone watching a screen across the planet saw virtually the same picture. Sure, the police in riot gear resembled Darth Vader storm troopers; but, as the respectable pundits were quick to point out, the troublemakers in the streets were the ones to blame. The activists bringing on the violence were, according to Milton Friedman's expansive arguments in the New York Times, "global village idiots" who didn't understand progress, and were standing in the way of the prosperity awaiting each and every one of us under the rule of a corporate controlled global economy.

But on November 30, 1999, something went wrong. Not only did official sources fail to predict the resolve and sheer number of people willing to put their bodies on the line to stop the WTO meetings, they failed to predict the emergence of a new media, a people's media, with just enough firepower to effectively break through the corporate-owned media's information blockade.

More than 400 independent print, radio, photo, video, and Internet journalists worked nonstop during the weeks leading up to N30 to organize a new model for event-based, real-time news coverage. The experiment was called the Independent Media Center (IMC). Stringing together scrap-heap bound computers to high bandwidth internet connections (a revolutionary software that enables instantaneous publishing via the World Wide Web), along with overnight satellite television uplinks, a daily newspaper and several microradio transmitters, an ad hoc news room was created virtually overnight.

When CNN reported that no rubber bullets were being aimed at mothers and children, these independent journalists had an answer. The answer came in the form of a series of photos and video stills, taken directly in the line of fire, of the very same rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and chemical agents unleashed upon peacefully assembled global citizens. These images were posted on the Independent Media Center website,, alongside in-depth articles explaining why so many had taken to the streets to shut down the WTO. On N30, the IMC site registered over a million hits. CNN decided to change its story.

Since N30, the growing movement to disable corporate globalization has met the WTO and its ilk at every turn. In Washington, D.C., activists did not manage to shut down the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings. Instead, they shut down the entire U.S. federal government, as D.C. police sealed off some 90 square blocks to keep concerned citizens from disturbing anti-democratic and unaccountable globalization power brokers.

During the U.S. Presidential conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and the globalization resistance demonstrations in Davos, Windsor, Melbourne, Prague, and The Hague, the movement to challenge unbridled corporate power stalled what was at one time considered to be a monolithic inevitability. A crisis of confidence among elite global powers became visible. In one example, Stephen Byers, Secretary of Trade and Industry for the United Kingdom, announced, "The WTO will not be able to continue in its present form. There has to be fundamental and radical change in order for it to meet the needs and aspirations of all 134 of its members."

And at every antiglobalization turn, Independent Media Centers have formed to ensure that activist voices are not silenced by a media system bought and paid for by the direct beneficiaries of global corporate power.

Since Seattle, live satellite television feeds reaching some 30 million households via Free Speech TV, community radio, and cable access have been added to the IMC information arsenal. Add to that multiple language publications, real-time webcasts, improved server capacity, increased bandwidth and advanced web-publishing software. The IMC experiment-one of purpose, collaboration, and collective effort-is expanding. There are now some 43 IMCs, spreading out from Seattle to international hubs in Quebec, Sydney, Italy, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, the Congo, and more.

To get involved in, or help build, an IMC near you, follow these links:





Czech Republic

United Kingdom
























Los Angeles



New York City

Ohio Valley




Rocky Mountains

Salt Lake City

San Francisco/Bay Area



Washington, D.C.


Eric Galatas helped organize IMCs in Seattle and Washington, D.C., and was project coordinator for Free Speech TV's live satellite broadcasts of collaborative IMC programming from the Republican and Democratic Presidential Convention protests in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Eric is Program Manager for Free Speech TV, now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on DISH Network Channel 9415, on community cable stations across the U.S. and on the net at

Independent Media

Index of Website

Home Page