A small-town Kansas local newspaper was raided yesterday by county sheriffs hellbent on taking everything in the newsroom, and the odyssey over this is just starting.
In an unprecedented raid Friday, local law enforcement seized computers, cellphones and reporting materials from the Marion County Record office, the newspaper’s reporters, and the publisher’s home.
Eric Meyer, owner and publisher of the newspaper, said police were motivated by a confidential source who leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper, and the message was clear: “Mind your own business or we’re going to step on you.”
The city’s entire five-officer police force and two sheriff’s deputies took “everything we have,” Meyer said, and it wasn’t clear how the newspaper staff would take the weekly publication to press Tuesday night.
The raid followed news stories about a restaurant owner who kicked reporters out of a meeting last week with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, and revelations about the restaurant owner’s lack of a driver’s license and conviction for drunken driving.
Meyer said he had never heard of police raiding a newspaper office during his 20 years at the Milwaukee Journal or 26 years teaching journalism at the University of Illinois.
“It’s going to have a chilling effect on us even tackling issues,” Meyer said, as well as “a chilling effect on people giving us information.”
The search warrant, signed by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, appears to violate federal law that provides protections against searching and seizing materials from journalists. The law requires law enforcement to subpoena materials instead. Viar didn’t respond to a request to comment for this story or explain why she would authorize a potentially illegal raid.
Emily Bradbury, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, said the police raid is unprecedented in Kansas.
“An attack on a newspaper office through an illegal search is not just an infringement on the rights of journalists but an assault on the very foundation of democracy and the public’s right to know,” Bradbury said. “This cannot be allowed to stand.”
Meyer reported last week that Marion restaurant owner Kari Newell had kicked newspaper staff out of a public forum with LaTurner, whose staff was apologetic. Newell responded to Meyer’s reporting with hostile comments on her personal Facebook page.
A confidential source contacted the newspaper, Meyer said, and provided evidence that Newell had been convicted of drunken driving and continued to use her vehicle without a driver’s license. The criminal record could jeopardize her efforts to obtain a liquor license for her catering business.
A reporter with the Marion Record used a state website to verify the information provided by the source. But Meyer suspected the source was relaying information from Newell’s husband, who had filed for divorce. Meyer decided not to publish a story about the information, and he alerted police to the situation.
“We thought we were being set up,” Meyer said.
Police notified Newell, who then complained at a city council meeting that the newspaper had illegally obtained and disseminated sensitive documents, which isn’t true. Her public comments prompted the newspaper to set the record straight in a story published Thursday.
A corrupt county law enforcement and judicial system rallying to the defense of a Republican congressman's donor by raiding the town newspaper sounds like something out of one of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels, but Republicans using law enforcement against journalism and journalists is reality across the country.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign team today contacted law enforcement in an attempt to prohibit Iowa Starting Line reporters from covering his campaign in the Hawkeye State, according to Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies.
Two reporters—including Starting Line’s Chief Political Correspondent Ty Rushing—were greeted by multiple sheriff’s deputies at the entrance of the American Legion in Harlan on Friday afternoon, where DeSantis was making his second campaign stop of the day.
“They said it’s a private event. They don’t want you. It is what it is,” Deputy Bill McDaniel said, refusing to elaborate on why the campaign sought to block Starting Line’s access to the event today.
“I can’t (tell you why). I don’t work for them. It’s a private event,” he said. “It is what it is.”
Republicans don't want, don't believe in, and think they don't need reporters in America. So they are trying to get rid of as many of them as they can, especially local and state outfits.