The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, along with SPJ’s Region 12 coordinator, call on Circuit Judge Brad Karren to withdraw the unjust and improper jail sentence he imposed on KNWA-TV journalist Nkiruka Azuka Omeronye for recording audio in his courtroom.
In addition to the unsettling three-day jail sentence, the judge placed Omeronye on six months probation and barred her from covering a murder trial in his court.
“We consider the judge’s actions to be excessive and disrespectful of the public service provided by journalists to all citizens interested in the judicial process,” said Arkansas SPJ chapter President Sarah DeClerk.
As reported by various media, Omeronye said she made the recording for note-taking purposes only to ensure accuracy, a common practice in many courtrooms, including at the federal level.
Omeronye said she was unaware of Judge Karren’s order banning recording in his court, and she apologized for violating that order.
We believe her apology should have been sufficient. So did the judge, apparently, based on this quote from him in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “I think you have shown the proper remorse,” Karren said. “I don’t think you were thumbing your nose at the court.”
Yet the judge decided jail time was warranted for a journalist just trying to do her job and to ensure that her report would be accurate.
We deplore Judge Karren’s decision and again call on him to remove the sanctions he has imposed on Omeronge.
The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s oldest and most broad-based journalism organization. SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.
Other SPJ chapters in support of this condemnation include, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.