NEW YORK – Tensions between public officers and the press are hardly uncommon. To a big extent, it is baked into their respective roles.

What’s uncommon in a democratic society is a police raid on a information group’s workplace or the house of its proprietor. So when that occurred late final week, it attracted the kind of nationwide consideration that the city of Marion, Kansas, is hardly used to.

The Marion Police Division took computer systems and cellphones from the workplace of the Marion County Document newspaper on Friday, and in addition entered the house of Eric Meyer, writer and editor. The weekly newspaper serves a city of 1,900 folks that’s about 150 miles (241 kilometers) southwest of Kansas Metropolis, Missouri.

Inside two days, the raid drew the eye of a number of the nation’s largest media organizations, together with The Related Press, The New York Instances, CNN, CBS Information, the New Yorker and the Gannett newspaper chain.


Police mentioned that they had possible trigger to consider there have been violations of Kansas regulation, together with one pertaining to id theft, involving a girl named Kari Newell, in response to a search warrant signed by Marion County District Courtroom Justice of the Peace Choose Laura Viar.

Newell is an area restaurant proprietor — and no large fan of the newspaper — who had Meyer and one in every of his reporters thrown out of an occasion being held there for an area congressman.

Newell mentioned she believed the newspaper, performing on a tip, violated the regulation to get her private info to verify the standing of her driver’s license following a 2008 conviction for drunk driving. Meyer mentioned the Document determined to not write about it, however when Newell revealed at a subsequent metropolis council assembly that she had pushed whereas her license was suspended, that was reported.

Meyer additionally believes the newspaper’s aggressive protection of native points, together with the background of Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody, performed a component within the raid.


It is very uncommon. In 2019, San Francisco police raided the house of Bryan Carmody, an impartial journalist, searching for to seek out his supply for a narrative a couple of police investigation into the sudden demise of an area public official, in response to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. San Francisco paid a settlement to Carmody because of the raid.

Police have confiscated materials at newspapers, however often as a result of they’re searching for proof to assist examine another person’s crime, not a criminal offense the journalists have been allegedly concerned in, mentioned Clay Calvert, an knowledgeable on First Modification regulation on the American Enterprise Institute. For instance, when police raided the workplaces of James Madison College’s pupil newspaper in 2010, they seized photographs as a part of a probe right into a riot.

The Marion raid “appears to have violated federal law, the First Amendment, and basic human decency,” mentioned Seth Stern, advocacy director for the Freedom of the Press Basis. “Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.”


The First Modification to the U.S. Structure asserts that Congress shall make no regulation “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

Issues get murkier while you get into specifics.

Journalists gathering materials to be used in doable tales are protected by the federal Privateness Safety Act of 1980. For one factor, police want a subpoena — not only a search warrant — to conduct such a raid, in response to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Cody acknowledged this, in an e-mail to The Related Press, however he mentioned there’s an exception “when there is reason to believe the journalist is taking part in the underlying wrongdoing.”

Gabe Rottman, lawyer for the Reporters Committee, mentioned he is undecided Cody’s purpose for believing the so-called suspect exception applies right here. Generally, it doesn’t apply to materials used in the middle of reporting, like draft tales or public paperwork which can be getting used to verify on a information tip.

The search warrant on this case was “significantly overbroad, improperly intrusive and possibly in violation of federal law,” the Reporters Committee mentioned in a letter to Cody that was signed by dozens of stories organizations.


It is necessary to talk out on this case “because we’re just seeing in way too many countries around the world that democracy is being eroded bit by bit,” mentioned Kathy Kiely, Lee Hills chair of Free Press Research on the College of Missouri Faculty of Journalism.

Anger towards the press in the USA, usually fueled by politicians, has grown lately, resulting in concern about actions being taken to thwart information protection.

In April, an Oklahoma sheriff was amongst a number of county officers caught on tape discussing killing journalists and lynching Black folks. Oklahoma Lawyer Normal Gentner Drummond later mentioned there was no authorized grounds to take away McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy.

In June, two reporters for the Asheville Blade newspaper in North Carolina have been discovered responsible of misdemeanor trespassing. The Freedom of Press Basis mentioned the reporters have been arrested whereas protecting a police sweep of a homeless encampment and arrested for being within the park after its 10 p.m. closing.


Not everybody in Kansas was fast to sentence the raid.

Jared Smith, a lifelong Marion resident, mentioned the newspaper is simply too adverse and drives away companies, together with a day spa run by his spouse that lately closed. He cited repeated tales within the Document about his spouse’s previous — she had as soon as modeled nude for {a magazine} years in the past.

“The newspaper is supposed to be something that, yes, reports the news, but it’s also a community newspaper,” Smith mentioned. “It’s not, ‘How can I slam this community and drive people away?’ “

Meyer disputed Smith’s description of how the newspaper handled his wife’s past and said the newspaper did not target her.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation issued a statement Sunday stating that Director Tony Mattivi “believes very strongly that freedom of the press is a vanguard of American democracy.” However the assertion added that search warrants are frequent at locations like regulation enforcement workplaces and metropolis, county and state workplaces.

“No one is above the law, whether a public official or a representative of the media,” the statement read.

Meyer said the agency has not contacted him or anyone at the newspaper.

“I don’t know what they’ve been told, but they haven’t talked to us,” he said. “They’ve heard one side of the story and haven’t heard the other one.”


Related Press writers John Hanna in Marion, Kansas, and Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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