After few hours in jail, Arkansas TV reporter ordered freed

FILE — The KNWA logo is shown in this file photo.
FILE — The KNWA logo is shown in this file photo.

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren ordered a TV journalist released Wednesday after she served a few hours of her three-day sentence.

The journalist, Nkiruka Azuka Omeronye, had disregarded Karren's prohibition against recording court proceedings during murder cases.

Omeronye's sentence Tuesday for contempt of court drew criticism from media outlets and journalism organizations who called the jail time too harsh and overreaching for recording in a courtroom.

Sgt. Shannon Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the Benton County sheriff's office, said Omeronye was released from custody at 5 p.m. Wednesday after Karren called the jail and reduced her sentence to time served.

Karren wasn't available for comment Thursday.

Dorothy Tucker, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, reported Wednesday on Twitter that Omeronye had been released from custody.

Karren sentenced Omeronye to 10 days in jail, but suspended seven of the days. She was to be released for work each day.

Omeronye, a reporter for KNWA/KFTA, admitted making an audio recording during an Oct. 7 hearing in a capital murder case.

She testified at her contempt hearing Tuesday that she recorded only for note-taking purposes to ensure accuracy, and she never intended to broadcast it. She apologized for her actions.

Karren found that Omeronye had deliberately recorded the proceedings and was in criminal contempt of court. Karren also placed her on six months of probation.

Omeronye was ordered to pay $250 in court costs.

Karren entered an order in June prohibiting any recording or broadcasting in the courtroom for a murder case. There is a sign warning against recording in the courtroom. Three other signs are also in the area.

The Arkansas Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the organization's Region 12 coordinator issued a news release Tuesday requesting that Karren withdraw the jail sentence imposed on Omeronye.

Metro on 11/22/2019