Already, with the lawsuits involving Donald Trump, there will be a lot of talk about the First Amendment in the coming months. Since Friday, the small town of Marion, Kansas, has become the scene of a new confrontation against the backdrop of freedom of the press.
Methods worthy of Hitler
“These are Hitler tactics, and something has to be done.” The one who deplored methods worthy of Hitler and who implored that we intervene in her case was a 98-year-old lady.
Joan Meyer died the day after the search of the offices of the newspaper she owned with her son Eric. The latter does not hesitate to associate the death of his mother with the extreme stress caused by the intervention of the police.
The police left with the owner’s computer, her router, her virtual assistant Alexa and cell phones. Not only is such a media seizure extremely rare, but the police chief executed the warrant in a case that did not involve the publication of an article by the Marion County Record.
What was reproached to this newspaper? Of having illegally obtained information concerning the owner of a restaurant in the city. This one would have been convicted a few years ago for driving while intoxicated. Disclosure of this information would jeopardize the renewal of his liquor licence.
Unfortunately for mother and son Meyer, their newspaper was at the same time investigating the resignation of the city’s chief of police. He previously reportedly quit his job in another city to avoid being splashed with allegations of sexual misconduct.
Eric Myer maintains that the newspaper has nothing to be ashamed of, that the information was obtained from a contact on social networks (before being verified) and that the city council held the same.
Not only did the Record publish nothing, it even advised the chief of police that disturbing information, perhaps obtained illegally by the source, was circulating about his disappointments.
Worrying for democracy
Although the search warrant was authorized by a judge, this unprecedented incident in the recent history of the United States disturbs me. The only known reason to justify such a seizure is tenuous.
It refers to a possible identity theft. Legally, the definition of this so-called theft is very broad.
It could be argued that the information from the Record could have been used to tarnish the image of those involved and harm them.
Most major news media and press freedom groups have stepped up to the plate. Let’s wait for the rest of the events, but this whole story smacks of settling scores.
Beyond the deep enmities or the sometimes incestuous links between the decision-makers of a small town of 1,900 souls, we must ensure that such an attack against a pillar of democracy never happens again.