Media

Washington Post lifts ban on reporter from covering sexual assault

Rape accusations against former NBA star Kobe Bryant

Felicia Sonmez accused top editors at the paper of ignoring her concerns about the way she has been treated at the paper

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MEDIA PRESS GROUP

The Washington Post on Monday lifted a ban on breaking news reporter Felicia Sonmez, which she says had barred her from covering stories related to sexual assault and harassment after she criticized newsroom leadership. Sonmez tweeted she had been informed by her editors that the ban was being lifted on Monday afternoon.

"This is good news, but it’s unfortunate that it had to come at such a high emotional toll, and after my distress was dismissed for years," she said. "I’m taking time to rest and process. Thank you for your support."

On Sunday, Sonmez accused top editors at the paper of ignoring her concerns about the way she has been treated at the paper, specifically regarding a suspension she was handed after she tweeted about rape accusations against former NBA star Kobe Bryant soon after his death in a helicopter crash.

Sonmez faced harassment online two months earlier after she alleged in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review that she had been sexually assaulted by a boss during a previous stint at the Los Angeles Times.

After her one-day suspension for her tweets about Bryant was lifted, Sonmez singled out executive editor Marty Baron, who is retiring this year, to explain his reasoning for punishing her.

"I faced no ban my first three months on the job. I wrote #MeToo-related stories with no problem. It was only once the Kavanaugh story broke in Sept. 2018 that the editors enacted one. It was lifted several months later, then reinstated in late 2019 when I was being attacked online after the publication of a story about the man who assaulted me," Sonmez said on Sunday. "The ban has been in place ever since, for more than a year now."

After she had gone public with accusations of sexual assault against a former boss, Sonmez said, editors at the Post worried about the appearance of a potential conflict of interest when covering the topic.

During a company-wide Zoom call on March 16 meant to rally the newsroom following similar online attacks against another Post reporter, Seung Min Kim, Sonmez reportedly messaged the entire group saying: "I wish editors had publicly supported me in the same way,” according to Politico.

The Post did not return an inquiry seeking comment on Sonmez's criticism over the weekend or any efforts to keep her off stories related to sexual violence.

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