Eric Meyer. Photo (cc) by Sam Bailey / Kansas Reflector

How stunningly authoritarian was a police raid on a newspaper office in Marion, Kansas? Here’s an indication: When independent media reporter Brian Stelter posted about it Friday night on the Platform Formerly Known as Twitter, among those responding was Maria Ressa, the Filipino journalist who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous resistance to her own country’s authoritarian regime.

“It’s happening to you now … death by a thousand cuts,” she wrote.

The shocking raid, conducted Friday afternoon, was aimed at seizing computers, cellphones and other materials from the Marion County Record, whose owner and publisher, Eric Meyer, is a former journalist for the Milwaukee Journal and a former journalism professor at the University of Illinois. According to the Kansas Reflector, a nonprofit news outlet, the police action threatened Meyer’s ability to publish his paper — which, after all, may have been the point.

Meyer told the Reflector that the authorities were trying to send him a message: “Mind your own business or we’re going to step on you.”

What’s especially weird about all of this is that involved a rather quotidian matter. The Reflector has been reporting on a restaurant owner who did not have a driver’s license and had been convicted of drunken driving, thus threatening her catering business. According to the Record’s own coverage of the raid, officers descended on the Record’s office as well as Meyer’s home, where they seized technology used by his 98-year-old mother to watch television and photographed Eric Meyer’s personal financial documents. The home of a vice mayor was targeted as well.

The Reflector’s journalism is licensed under Creative Commons, and news outlets are free to republish it. Below is the full story:

Police stage ‘chilling’ raid on Marion County newspaper, seizing computers, records and cellphones

By Sherman Smith, Sam Bailey, Rachel Mipro and Tim Carpenter | Aug. 11, 4:15 p.m.

MARION — In an unprecedented raid Friday, local law enforcement seized computers, cellphones and reporting materials from the Marion County Record office, the newspaper’s reporters, and the publisher’s home.

Eric Meyer, owner and publisher of the newspaper, said police were motivated by a confidential source who leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper, and the message was clear: “Mind your own business or we’re going to step on you.”

The city’s entire five-officer police force and two sheriff’s deputies took “everything we have,” Meyer said, and it wasn’t clear how the newspaper staff would take the weekly publication to press Tuesday night.

The raid followed news stories about a restaurant owner who kicked reporters out of a meeting last week with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, and revelations about the restaurant owner’s lack of a driver’s license and conviction for drunken driving.