Report: Greater media access needed for Arkansas executions | Arkansas Blog

Report: Greater media access needed for Arkansas executions


  • Dayanita Ramesh for Media Matters
Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog, has posted a report on recent executions in Arkansas and other states that it says illustrate a need for greater media access.

Arkansas’ recent spate of executions of prisoners on death row, conducted with the use of nearly expired and improperly obtained drugs, was marred by reports that the drugs used were ineffective and caused the inmates to suffer. But uncertainty about what happened to inmates in the death chamber illustrates the need for greater reporter access to these events — life and death stories for which they may be the only impartial witness.
Arkansas's housing of the condemned, preparations for execution and the executions themselves are all under strict control — often meaning secrecy — by law and the state Correction Department.

As the article notes, the department only relented at the last minute to an edict that reporters could not take pencil and paper to witness the executions, only parts of which are viewed by witnesses.

The secrecy, it has always seemed clear, is to prevent release of information that might spur opposition to the death penalty. This has particularly been true as the state has reverted to duplicitous and secretive means to obtain drugs used in the killings.

Said Media Matters:

Journalism is instrumental in bringing awareness to, and holding states accountable for, executions that have potentially violated prisoners’ 8th amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment. An estimated 3 percent of executions from 1890-2010 have been botched in some way, with lethal injection yielding the highest percentage of botched executions. The stakes are high for inmates, their families, and the country. Arkansas and other states that conduct executions should at least let the media fully bear witness.

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