To sum up: On twitter, Washington Post reporter and sexual assault survivor Felicia Sonmez recently linked to an article about the rape allegations against Kobe Bryant.
Her tweet ignited a furious backlash - she received so many death and rape threats she had to move to a hotel. She informed WaPo but instead of supporting her, she was put on leave because her post was deemed "in poor judgement", "undermined the work of her colleagues", and "damages the institution".
Somnez was warned that she would act “in violation of a directive from a managing editor" if she didn't take down the tweets. She complied even though she was worried about destroying the evidence of the threats made against her.
In which completely neutral terms did other WaPo reporters like to remember Bryant? They like to refer to him as a hero, a global sports icon, and a bright light. They also mourned the fact that he had 'accomplished so much' but it was 'devastating to consider what he left unfinished'. Today they published an article claiming the incident should not be forgotten, but "a single action should not define Kobe Bryan."
Sonmez explained her reasoning in now-deleted tweets:
"To the 10,000 people (literally) who have commented and emailed me with abuse and death threats, please take a moment and read the story – which was written 3+ years ago, and not by me. Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling. That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn’t even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.”
Felicia Sonmez and Koby Bryant
The decisions made by the newsroom leaders did not go unchallenged. The Washington Post Newspaper Guild released a statement in which they expressed alarm for the decisions made by the leadership team. On Monday, their statement had been signed be almost 300 members of the newsroom.
The open statement reads:"The Post’s handling of this issue shows utter disregard for best practices in supporting survivors of sexual violence — including the practices we use in our own journalism. (...) We have repeatedly seen colleagues — including members of management — share contentious opinions on social media platforms without sanction. But here a valued colleague is being censured for making a statement of fact. Felicia did nothing more than what The Post’s own news stories have done when she shared an article about the past allegation against Bryant."
An opinion piece by Erik Wemple was also published which called Sonmez' suspension "misguided" and highlighted the hypocrisy of the decision. Wemple argues that Somnez' tweets didn't undermine the work of other journalists but enriched it.
Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
I linked to lots of banned sources, but paraphrased the content or incorporated brief quotes, as is allowed by the guidelines.