Joan Meyer, 98, the co-owner of the Marion County Record newspaper in Kansas, tragically passed away at her residence on Saturday, a day after the police raided her home and the newspaper’s office. The Record described Meyer, 98, as being “stressed beyond her limits” due to the traumatic event and denounced the raids as illegal.
Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody stood firm in defense of the police action. “Once all the information is available, the judicial system being questioned will be vindicated,” he said. However, no police statements have been issued since Meyer’s death.
Items seized during the home raid included Meyer’s personal computer and a router associated with an Alexa device. At the Record’s office, officials confiscated personal cellphones, computers, and the newspaper’s central server, among other equipment. Cody is alleged to have forcefully taken reporter Deb Gruver’s phone, resulting in a finger injury.
Despite the setbacks, publisher Eric Meyer emphasized the newspaper’s determination to continue its operations. He expressed, “Our first priority is to be able to publish next week.” Meyer vehemently condemned the actions of the police and vowed legal retaliation, referencing them as “Gestapo tactics.”
Journalists and newsrooms typically enjoy protection from police searches under the federal Privacy Protection Act, which requires law enforcement to acquire a subpoena rather than a direct search warrant. Yet, the police action on Friday was executed on a search warrant basis.
The controversial raid did not go unnoticed. Free speech proponents have expressed deep concerns regarding the implications of such actions on journalistic freedom. Dozens of reputable news entities, led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, collectively denounced the raid, emphasizing its First Amendment infringements.
Seth Stern from the Freedom of the Press Foundation voiced concerns about the growing hostility against press freedom, stating, “The anti-press rhetoric…is creating a dangerous environment for journalists trying to do their jobs.”
Shannon Jankowski of PEN America echoed the sentiment, highlighting the importance of journalists in society. She emphasized, “Journalists rely on confidential sources to report on matters of vital public concern.” The organization firmly believes that overreach by law enforcement jeopardizes the newspaper’s functioning and that the police should be held accountable for these violations.