Repression against WSIS? We Seize!
  Media Laboratory closed by police
  Geneva, 9 December. As the WSIS summit is opening its doors, claiming to facilitate people's access to information and communication, the main public access space within the WSIS side-events has been shut down. This morning, police in riot gear raided the Polimedia Lab in downtown Geneva.

At 10 am this morning police turned up at the Polimedia Lab, blocked the doors, denied access to participants and visitors arriving at the space, and demanded those that were present to leave and take all equipment out. The first reason given was that the owner of the space had not given his permission for it to be used (even though an agreement had been made on the use of the space). Later security reasons and health&safety issues were put forward as an explanation for the police action.

However, members of the Geneva03 collective, which has been preparing the WSIS? We Seize! events, have said that these reasons are a pretext for shutting down a space for a critical reflection of the WSIS. They have pointed to other recent acts of police repression against media activists and independent media, including the police raid of the Indpenedent Media Centre during the G8 summit in Geneva earlier this year. "It is becoming normal that police is being used to repress critical voices and independent reporting during big events, such as WSIS", one activist said.

Polimedia Lab was planned as an open public space for skill-sharing and experimenting with communication technologies, with a rolling programme of workshops and presentations. It is part of the WSIS? We Seize! series of events, which is the only WSIS side-event to take place in the Geneva city centre and to be completely open to the public. WSIS? We Seize! is included in the official list of WSIS side-events.

At the moment, around 20 people are still locked inside the space and are negotiating with the police and with officials from the Geneva city council. Participants from the strategic conference, which was taking place nearby, immediately made their way to the Lab to support people there.


Update: Long negotiations with the city council resulted in an offer to move Polimedia Lab to an alternative space, Maison des Associations. When all people had left and all equipment had been moved out, it quickly became apparent that the offer was not confirmed and rather had served as a tactical intervention by the city council to remove everyone from the building. Negotiations are currently continuing.

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