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August 14, 2023

30 news organisations condemn ‘chilling’ police raid on Kansas newspaper

The 98-year-old co-owner of the newspaper died on Saturday, the day after her home was raided.

By Charlotte Tobitt

More than 30 US news titles and press freedom organisations have condemned a police raid on a Kansas newspaper as “significantly overbroad, improperly intrusive and possibly in violation of federal law”.

Police raided the Marion County Record office on Friday as well as the home of its co-owner, 98-year-old Joan Meyer.

Meyer, who was said to have been in good health for her age, subsequently died on Saturday and the newspaper claimed the “illegal” raids contributed to her death.

The newspaper wrote that she had been “stressed beyond limits and overwhelmed by hours of shock and grief” following the raid. It said she had been unable to sleep or eat after watching as police took away her computer and router and dug through her son and co-owner Eric’s personal financial statements.

The Marion County Record newsroom was raided at the same time, with four computers, personal phones and the newspaper’s file servers among the items seized. The newspaper said staff were forced to stand outside for hours “during a heat advisory” and a reporter had her phone snatched out of her hand, reinjuring a finger that had previously been dislocated.

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The raids came days after a local restaurant owner accused the newspaper of illegally obtaining drink-driving information about her and supplying it to the town’s mayor, whose home was also raided. The newspaper said it did not seek out the information but was sent to it via social media and separately sent to the mayor. The information was verified by a reporter through a state website but was ultimately not published.

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The police actions have now been condemned in a letter signed by news organisations including the Associated Press, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, Boston Globe, CNN, CBS News, Dow Jones, Gannett, Hearst, The Intercept, McClatchy, Los Angeles Times, NBC Universal, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Pro Publica, Reuters, Time and The Washington Post.

They believe the seizure of equipment has “substantially interfered” with the newspaper’s First Amendment newsgathering rights and that the raids “risk chilling the free flow of information in the public interest more broadly, including by dissuading sources from speaking to the Record and other Kansas news media in the future”.

The letter to Marion’s chief of police, Gideon Cody, who was reported to be at the scene of the newsroom raid, said: “Newsroom searches and seizures are among the most intrusive actions law enforcement can take with respect to the free press, and the most potentially suppressive of free speech by the press and the public.”

Citing reporting of the incident, the search warrant and police statements to the press, it went on to say there “appears to be no justification for the breadth and intrusiveness of the search – particularly when other investigative steps may have been available – and we are concerned that it may have violated federal law strictly limiting federal, state and local law enforcement’s ability to conduct newsroom searches.

“We urge you to immediately return the seized material to the Record, to purge any records that may already have been accessed, and to initiate a full independent and transparent review of your department’s actions.”

Other news industry representatives and press freedom organisations voicing their opposition include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which coordinated the letter, The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Kansas Press Association, the National Newspaper Association, the National Press Photographers Association, News Media Alliance, Online News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

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