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Dozens of news organizations condemn police raid on Kansas newspaper and call for seized materials to be returned


By Jon Passantino, CNN

(CNN) — Dozens of news organizations on Sunday condemned a police raid on a Kansas newspaper and its publisher’s home, sending a letter to the local police department’s chief urging him to immediately return all seized materials.

The four-page letter, sent by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody, was signed by 34 news and press freedom organizations, including CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and others.

“Newsroom searches and seizures are among the most intrusive actions law enforcement can take with respect to the free press, and the most potentially suppressive of free speech by the press and the public,” the letter said.

The Marion County Record’s co-owner and publisher, Eric Meyer, believes Friday’s raid was prompted by a story published Wednesday about a local business owner. Authorities countered they are investigating what they called “identity theft” and “unlawful acts concerning computers,” according to a search warrant.

“Based on public reporting, the search warrant that has been published online, and your public statements to the press, there appears to be no justification for the breadth and intrusiveness of the search —particularly when other investigative steps may have been available — and we are concerned that it may have violated federal law strictly limiting federal, state, and local law enforcement’s ability to conduct newsroom searches,” the letter said.

Computers, cell phones, and other materials were seized during the raid at the Marion County Record, Meyer confirmed to CNN. The search warrant identified a list of items law enforcement officials were allowed to seize, including “documents and records pertaining to Kari Newell,” the business owner who was the subject of the story, Meyer said.

Newell told CNN the Marion County Record unlawfully used her credentials to get information that was available only to law enforcement, private investigators and insurance agencies.

Chief Cody was not able to provide details on Friday’s raid, saying it remains an ongoing criminal investigation – but offered a justification.

“I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated,” Cody told CNN in a statement. “I appreciate all the assistance from all the state and local investigators along with the entire judicial process thus far.”

But the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said the police department should give back the items to the paper and its reporters.

“We urge you to immediately return the seized material to the Record, to purge any records that may already have been accessed, and to initiate a full independent and transparent review of your department’s actions.”

– CNN’s Sarah Moon contributed to this report

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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