By Tony Farkas
There’s a story coming out of Marion, Kan., that should give pause to anyone who values liberty. It certainly gives me pause for what happened and for what it means.
The police department there, under the direction of a newly minted police chief, raided the Marion County Record, as well as the home of the publisher, under the auspices of a search warrant issued for suspicion of criminal activity and the possibility of identity theft.
All computers, storage items, Alexa devices and internet routers were seized, leaving the newspaper struggling to put out its weekly screed. The publisher said that after the raid, his 98-year-old mother was stressed, and later died.
The raid was based on a claim from a local restaurant owner who said the newspaper had illegally obtained her criminal history. Apparently, there were DWI charges in her background, and she had petitioned the city for a liquor license.
Further information shows, however, that the newspaper had been doing a background investigation on the new police chief. Apparently, numerous people told the newspaper about allegations of impropriety, but as of the raid, no story had ever been printed.
(Incidentally, the warrants have been withdrawn, and the seized property has been returned. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation also has become involved in the case.)
So was the raid retaliatory, or justified? Seems like that’s a debate that will take some time to bring to ground, but the fact of the matter is that the first amendment guarantees the right to a free press.
For years, I had been taught that as long as the newspaper did nothing illegal to garner the information, it had the right to print it. There can be no laws restricting the right of a free press. Seems to me that since the newspaper was exercising its trade legally and with due diligence, the warrant was farcical and intended to intimidate.
Free and unfettered newsgathering is essential in a democracy. It allows the people of a country to keep track of their elected officials — at every level — and provides an easy way to monitor how tax dollars are spent.
Granted, media on a national level has operated mostly as a propaganda arm of the liberal cognoscenti, but local newspapers, small-town weeklies such as this one and others, keep tabs on their circulation area with credibility and for the most part, objectivity.
Should a newspaper staff commit a criminal offense in the performance of their duties, there are laws that deal with gathering evidence, most notably involving the use of subpoenas, not warrants. So, for my money, this was a case of a small-town lawman flexing, and blowing his nose on the Constitution.
The will of the Founding Fathers was pretty clear about the press, as is shown in this quote by Thomas Jefferson:
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
That goes for me, too. When people, and in this case their representatives in the press, are intimidated and browbeat into conforming to the approved version of information, it ceases to be informative and instead becomes indoctrination. There liberty goes to die.