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Washington Post Suspends Reporter After Tweets On Kobe Bryant’s Sexual Assault Allegations

The death of Kobe Bryant generated lots of reactions from people all over the world, different people dropped different messages celebrating a life well-lived, so many people came out to talk about how the Basketball legend changed their lives.

However, a Washington Post reporter, Felicia Sonmez saw his death differently as she posted a link to an article on the allegations of sexual assault made against him in 2003. This was met with anger and disappointment by many twitter users, castigating her for being insensitive.

Bryant was arrested in 2003 after a complaint by a hotel employee in Colorado. A charge of felony sexual assault was dropped in 2005, and Bryant settled with his accuser out of court, saying in a statement that he believed the encounter with the woman was “consensual,” although he had come to understand that she did not see it the same way.

When  Sonmez posted this, she received different threat messages from people which she posted in different tweets.

However, she deleted the three tweets after being told to do so by Tracy Grant, the newspaper’s managing editor, but not before other people captured them in screenshots.

Sonmez later received an email from The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron., before she was told that she would be placed on leave. The reporter shared the three-sentence email as reported by The New York Times.

The Post confirmed the paid suspension on Monday but didn’t specify which of the tweets had prompted it to take action.

In a statement by Grant:

“National political reporter Felicia Sonmez was placed on administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweets about the death of Kobe Bryant violated the Post newsroom’s social media policy. The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

The suspension did not go down well with so many media houses as some news media kicked against the suspension in a letter that was organized by the NewsGuild, the union that represents Post journalists, and signed by more than 200 staff members, including the paper’s most prominent reporters.

The letter signed by Post journalists, which was addressed to Baron and  Grant, criticised how the paper handled the matter.

“Felicia received an onslaught of violent messages, including threats that contained her home address, in the wake of a tweet Sunday regarding Kobe Bryant. Instead of protecting and supporting a reporter in the face of abuse, The Post placed her on administrative leave while newsroom leaders review whether she violated the social media policy. While acknowledging the tragedy of Bryant’s death, we believe it is our responsibility as a news organization to tell the public the whole truth as we know it, about figures and institutions both popular and unpopular, at moments timely and untimely.”

Sonmez said in an interview that she did not add any commentary of her own to the tweet that included a link to the Daily Beast article.

Sonmez, however, has been re-instated.

This will not be the first time that Sonmez will be caught in the web of social media hullabaloo as she was one of two women who accused Jonathan Kaiman, a Beijing bureau chief of The Los Angeles Times, of sexual misconduct. After The Los Angeles Times conducted an investigation in 2018,  Kaiman resigned.

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