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Kansas newspaper co-owner, 98, dies after ‘tearfully’ watching police raid her home

The last printed issue of the Marion County Record – AP

The elderly co-owner of a local newspaper in Kansas has died after police raided her home.

Joan Meyer, 98, who owned the Marion County Record with her son Eric, collapsed after being traumatised by police descending on her home.

Police were accused of behaving like the Gestapo in the raid on the paper, which has a circulation of 2,200.

The raid on the offices and the proprietor’s home by five police officers and two deputies has ignited a debate of the freedom of the press and the first amendment right to free speech.

According to the paper, Mrs Meyer was “stressed beyond her limits” when police descended on her home.

She watched in tears as the officers, armed with a search warrant, took away her computer, internet router and Alexa smart speaker.

Mr Meyer, 69, said his mother, who was previously in good health for her age, was unable to eat or sleep after the raid.

Eric Meyer, the editor and publisher of the Marion County Record – AP

Police also raided the offices of the paper, confiscating computers and two reporters’ mobile phones.

Mr Meyer told the Kansas Reflector police took “everything we have”.

He added that in his 20 years at the Milwaukee Journal or 26 years teaching journalism at the University of Illinois, he had never heard of the police raiding a paper.

“It’s going to have a chilling effect on us even tackling issues,” Mr Meyer said, as well as “a chilling effect on people giving us information”.

The offices of the Marion County Record – AP

It was also condemned by Emily Bradbury, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, who said it was unprecedented.

“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,” Ms Bradbury said. “This cannot be allowed to stand.”

According to the paper’s website, Mrs Meyer “tearfully watched during the raid as police not only carter away her computer…but also dug through her son Eric’s personal bank and investment statements.”

Mr Meyer added: “Basically, all the law enforcement officers on duty in Marion County, Kansas, descended on our offices today and seized our server and computers and personal cellphones of staff members all because of a story we didn’t publish.”

The raid was triggered by a dispute with a local businesswoman over a story which was not even published.

Local police chief Gideon Cody said: “As much as I would like to give everyone details on a criminal investigation, I cannot.

“I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated.”

He added: “The Marion Kansas Police Department believes it is the fundamental duty of the police is to ensure the safety, security and well-being of all members of the public.

“This commitment must remain steadfast and unbiased, unaffected by political or media influences, in order to uphold the principles of justice, equal protection and the rule of law for everyone in the community.”

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