The WGA East and the NewsGuild-CWA are calling the recent police raid of a tiny newspaper in Kansas “an affront to the constitutionally protected rights of journalists and news media workers.” In a joint statement, the unions are demanding that the Marion County Police department “be held accountable for its raid of the Marion County Record newspaper” in Marion, Kansas.
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“Press freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy that is enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution and our unions will do everything to protect and preserve a free and independent press,” the unions said.
The Society of Professional Journalists also weighed in. “By all accounts, the raid was an egregious attack on freedom of the press, the First Amendment and all the liberties we hold dear as journalists in this great country,” SPJ National President Claire Regan said during an emergency board meeting last week to approve funding to the newspaper.
Armed with a search warrant, the police seized documents, computers and cell phones at the newspaper’s offices and at the home of its publisher on August 11 on the suspicion that one of its reporters had faked the identity of a local restaurant owner in order to conduct a public records search. A local prosecutor later withdrew the search warrant, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is probing the matter.
Video of the search at the publisher’s home shows his 98-year-old mother, Joan Meyer – the paper’s former longtime columnist and copy editor – confronting police officers and yelling at them to “Get out of my house! Don’t touch any of that stuff! This is my house!” She died the next day.
The cause of her death has not yet been determined, but the local coroner has reportedly determined that the stress of the raid might have been a contributing factor.
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