Column: Why freedom of the press matters
Written by Gage Thompson on September 16, 2023
By Gage Thompson / Opinion Editor
As American citizens, it’s important to know that the First Amendment is important to the United States people and entails that it protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. With this, I feel like the great state of Kansas is taking a giant hit when it comes specifically to the freedom of the press.
I was recently informed about a story in Marion, Kansas, where a local news station was investigating police corruption in their town. As time went on, there was allegedly plenty of tangible evidence that there was clear corruption in their town, but before the press could release their first story on this specific subject something terrible happened. The local police station took it upon themselves to raid the chief editor’s home. Seizing phones, documents, and all things tied to the local investigation.
Due to the stress, the raid inflicted on the chief editor’s home their 98-year-old mother passed away because of how stressful it was getting their house torn apart by law enforcement. All this occurred right after the police force seized everything at their station without any justification for their actions. To put this in retrospect this local new station has been up and running for 154 years and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened.
Immediately after the raid occurred, hundreds of people within the town saw this as a clear violation of their access to the press and gave the chief of police and the staff the backlash they deserved. Another key fact that we need to recognize is the judge who gave the police force permission to raid the local station has two very recent DUI charges and allegations are coming out that this was a way for the local judge to stay in the clear with local law enforcement. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, also referred to as KBI, has had a full-blown investigation into the raid and is working on determining if this was a violation of the people’s rights.
This story hit near and dear to my heart taking into consideration that not only did I just join the KWU newspaper team, but also the fact that something like this can happen an hour away from Salina. My overall take on the subject is that we should use stories and examples like this to address how the freedom of the press is completely tarnished for the people of America. We can see how important access to all news is to address things such as corruption, and social issues, and also to simply be informed about what’s going on around us.
This is why I believe we should invest as a country in organizations such as the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the International Press Institute. Their primary goals are to empower national and local press and news organizations all over America to avoid issues that I have previously demonstrated are a clear blatant disrespect to our country’s constitution. Lastly, join the fight to help The Marion County Record. They ask you to read their most recent edition titled, “Seized…but not Silenced,” which gives you further information on the ongoing investigation with KBI. With this, we can see that if we continue to value the press, we will no longer be silenced but most importantly we can ensure that justice will always be severed.
Your can read a statement from the KWU Student Media Editorial Board regarding the incident with the Marion County Record HERE.