The Committee to Protect Journalists said on Saturday that it was deeply troubled by Friday’s police raid on a local U.S. newspaper office. Media organizations reported that police officers in Marion County, Kansas, took computers and phones — including personal cell phones — from the Marion County Record newspaper and the homes of its personnel.

Reports said that a search warrant issued by a district court magistrate gave police authority to search for devices that were used to access the Kansas Department of Revenue records and records relating to a local restaurant owner.

“The raid by police on the Marion County Record is deeply disturbing,” said CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg. “Local news providers are essential in holding power to account — and they must be able to report freely, without fear of authorities’ overreach.”

U.S. federal law provides protections against searching and seizing materials from journalists, with requests for material usually going through a subpoena process.

 “This kind of action by police – which we sadly see with growing frequency worldwide – has a chilling effect on journalism and on democracy more broadly,” said Ginsberg. “The actions of the police and the judiciary in this case must be thoroughly and swiftly investigated.” 

Marion County Record report said the raids contributed to the death of the paper’s co-owner, 98-year-old Joan Meyer, whom it said collapsed and died on Saturday afternoon following the police search of her home.

[Editors’ note: On August 13, CPJ joined a letter condemning the police raid.]