The recent demonstrations aimed at disrupting the IMF and World Bank meetings in Prague were given blanket and sympathetic online coverage last month. Not on mainstream websites however, but on the mushrooming network of Independent Media Centres (IMCs) which have emerged in the past few months.

The IMC phenomenon was kick started with the anti-capitalism protests last year followed by the demonstrations in Seattle against the WTO and World Bank. The UK IMC says the interest in independent media was "triggered by discontent with the mainstream media and supported by the widespread availability of media technologies; groups all over the world are creating their own channels of information and distribution in order to bypass the (mainstream) corporate media".

Since the first tentative online steps, the IMC network now spans the globe with around 30 IMC hubs focused on big cities. Although most of them are based in the US, there are other IMCs in Belgium, Canada, Africa, France, Italy, Australia, Mexico, Prague and the UK.

Currently, the UK IMC news agenda focuses on urban protest and civil rights stories - and nearly all of them are London based. The events in Prague have dominated the news pages since they drew to a close at the end of September.

Other IMCs are pursuing a much broader alternative news agenda. For example, as well as covering the Prague protests in depth, the Washington DC IMC carries stories about unionisation, Colombia, Austria and poverty in Brazil.

IMC-DC says it is dedicated to building a media democracy by "providing progressive, in-depth and accurate coverage of issues that affect all communities and by increasing community access to available technologies and information for the production and distribution of news and analysis."

The IMC network is also getting organised. It now has its own umbrella website which offers support to new and existing IMCs. New IMCs are expected to seek 'official' IMC recognition.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).