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Authors Guild Condemns Seizure at Marion County Record: Urges Respect for First Amendment and Journalistic Integrity

Update, August 16, 2023: The search warrant that allowed the Marion Police Department to raid the Marion County Record, a Kansas newspaper, has been retracted by the Marion County Attorney. All items confiscated during the raid have been returned to the newspaper’s attorney. Despite this, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will continue its probe, excluding the evidence obtained from the raid. The Record is arranging for a forensics expert to examine the returned items, ensuring no tampering occurred.

The attorney’s office clarified that although there might be probable cause against a newspaper employee related to computer offenses, the evidence linking the alleged crime to the raid was insufficient. He has petitioned for the release of the related affidavits to the public.

We are pleased that the attorney recognized the error, and that there will be a forensic examination to see what data was accessed. We hope this will discourage similar incidents from happening in the future.

August 11, 2023: Local law enforcement officials in Marion, Kansas, conducted a seizure of computers, cellphones, and essential reporting tools from both the Marion County Record offices and its journalists, as well as the publisher’s residence.

While the specific legal grounds for this action remain outside the Guild’s purview, we vehemently object to the manner of its execution. They effectively shut down the operations of the newspaper and potentially exposed confidential information about the reporters’ sources and stories in the process. Even if the sources and information are not made public, the mere fact that the police have custody of this information will no doubt discourage other confidential sources from communicating with the paper in the future.

The potential ripple effect on the broader journalism community is significant and likely deliberate. It is an unwarranted attack on the press and a blatant violation of the First Amendment. We urge the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to not only prioritize the swift return of all confiscated items but to also support the upholding of the First Amendment rights of all journalists and avoid similar incidents in the future.