The Washington Post sent iMediaEthics a new statement about Felicia Sonmez. The Post confirmed to iMediaEthics she is no longer suspended. Sonmez tweeted a link to a 2016 Daily Beast story about the 2003 sexual assault accusation against Kobe Bryant shortly after his death was announced and then tweeted she was being inundated with attacks over that tweet.
The statement from the Post‘s Tracy Grant reads:
“After conducting an internal review, we have determined that, while we consider Felicia’s tweets ill-timed, she was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy. Reporters on social media represent The Washington Post, and our policy states ‘we must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence.’
“We consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths. We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter.”
Sonmez responded in a tweeted statement calling for the Post‘s executive editor Marty Baron to directly explain what happened.
“Washington Post journalists endeavor to live up to the paper’s mission statement, which states, ‘The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world,” she wrote in part. “My suspension, and @PostBaron’s Jan. 26 email warning me that my tweets about a matter of public record were ‘hurting this institution,’ have unfortunately sown confusion about the depth of management’s commitment to this goal.”
She added, “I hope Washington Post newsroom leaders will not only prioritize their employees’ safety in the face of threats of physical harm but also ensure that no journalist will be punished for speaking the truth.”
The Post suspended Sonmez this weekend, as iMediaEthics has reported. The Post said it put her on “administrative leave” while it determined if her tweets broke social media policy. The Washington Post Guild slammed the suspension.
iMediaEthics has asked the Post if it has any response to the guild’s statement. We’ve also asked if it will in the future suspend someone for a potential breach of social media policy before reviewing the posts. We’ve also written to Sonmez.
Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault in 2003 but the charges were dropped in 2004 when his accuser wouldn’t testify. Bryant apologized but did not admit guilt to the assault and settled her civil suit in 2005.
This story has been updated throughout the evening as it is breaking.