The newspaper additionally cited a D.C. legislation enacted in 2011 to discourage lawsuits over public statements on issues of public controversy, arguing that the legislation blocks Sonmez’s lawsuit as a result of her claims intrude with the newspaper’s skill to craft its personal messages to the general public.
Sonmez was fired from the newspaper in 2022 for what the newspaper described as insubordination, however the lawsuit she filed is just not associated to the dismissal.
Throughout 80 minutes of argument, the three-judge panel appeared considerably extra skeptical of Sonmez’s arguments than these of the Washington Put up, but it surely challenged either side’ claims and left the bench with out giving a transparent indication about whether or not Sonmez could be allowed to proceed along with her go well with. This was overturned by a decrease court docket choose final yr.
Decide Loren Ali-Khan advised Sonmez’s lawyer, Madeleine Meth, that a lot of Sonmez’s lawsuit seems to be carefully tied to the newspaper’s decision-making course of about information tales and what its workers say and write publicly.
“Quite a lot of the allegations that you just identified should do with the assignments that she works on, and the way they need her to have interaction in social media,” Ali Khan mentioned. “All of it appears to be form of associated to how The Washington Put up desires to have interaction in her expressive or amendment-protected conduct.” the primary”.
However Mith mentioned that silently stopping Sonmez from reporting on #MeToo or gender-related points was not likely a speech in any respect.
“The ban that occurred behind the scenes didn’t convey something to the general public. The truth is, it was secret, Meth mentioned, noting that the newspaper solely lifted the ban after Politico uncovered it publicly. Sonmez’s absence from such tales, if seen, may need been interpreted as him being on different assignments or on a writers’ trip, she mentioned.
Nevertheless, the newspaper’s lawyer, Yaakov Roth, mentioned the newspaper’s authority to hold out missions was carefully intertwined with the information it supplied to the general public.
“Bannings are expressive conduct as a result of they’re a type of editorial censorship and editorial judgment,” Roth mentioned.
That prompted a skeptical response from one other choose on the panel, Joshua Diehl.
“It appears to me an exaggeration to say that it’s expressive conduct that’s being intentionally stored secret by The Washington Put up. … What’s expressive conduct right here when they’re intentionally not expressing something about this ban?” Diehl requested.
“Speech is the liberty to talk, the liberty to not converse, the liberty to resolve what to speak about and methods to speak about it,” Roth mentioned.
Ali Khan entered the dialogue to level out that the paper’s determination to not rent Sonmez for such tales additionally included optimistic choices by the paper to assign “these much less related to the controversy to report on it.”
Meth complained that the Washington Put up’s restrictions required Sonmez to continuously focus on her previous traumatic experiences within the office. The lawyer additionally argued that the newspaper’s therapy of Sonmez was inconsistent with the way it handled one other journalist who nonetheless works for the newspaper, Michelle Yi Hee Lee, after she spoke out in opposition to the media’s dealing with of anti-Asian hate incidents.
“She has spoken out continuously about anti-Asian hate crimes and has publicly objected to media protection of these crimes, however has been allowed to proceed writing tales on the subject,” Meth mentioned.
However Roth famous that nobody is defending anti-Asian hate crimes, whereas the #MeToo motion has sparked vital public disagreement.
“Condemning anti-Asian hate crimes… is just not a topic of heated social or political debate. It’s not the form of assertion that may elevate considerations about appearances of conflicts of curiosity,” he mentioned.
Plainly Ali Khan was not satisfied by this distinction. “It appears onerous to say,” she mentioned. “Within the post-Covid world, there’s nice debate round these points. I imply, who’s going to resolve what discrimination is sizzling or not?
One other key distinction is that Sonmez shared her private expertise, whereas Lee didn’t, Roth mentioned.
The third choose on the panel, Corinne Beckwith, requested fewer questions than the others, however she requested the newspaper’s attorneys methods to distinguish between Sonmez’s sufferer standing and different actions she was concerned in in reference to that standing.
D.C. Superior Courtroom Decide Anthony Epstein dismissed Sonmez’s lawsuit final yr, saying she didn’t adequately allege discrimination primarily based on the sufferer’s standing or intercourse. Nevertheless, he rejected the newspaper’s try and invoke the legislation referring to freedom of expression in relation to the case.
The Put up fired Sonmez in February 2022 after she publicly criticized one other Washington Put up reporter, Dave Weigel, for retweeting a Twitter submit containing a crude joke about ladies. Wiggle apologized and was suspended for a month over the episode.
The newspaper reportedly knowledgeable Sonmez that she could be fired for “insubordination, abusing your co-workers on-line, and violating The Put up’s requirements of collegiality and inclusivity within the office.” The newspaper didn’t publicly clarify Sonmez’s firing, but it surely despatched a memo to workers on the time indicating that it could not permit its workers to gossip at one another in public. “We don’t tolerate assaults on our colleagues whether or not in particular person or on-line,” wrote Sally Buzbee, the Put up’s govt editor.
Sonmez’s lawsuit was filed about seven months earlier than she was fired. She sought to protest her firing with a union grievance, however The Washington Put up refused to contemplate the matter, citing an expired union contract.
The Sonmez case has uncovered disagreements inside information organizations over the worth of efforts to attempt for objectivity in reporting, with generational divisions rising in some newsrooms between older journalists who assist such requirements and youthful journalists who see them as erratically utilized and a barrier to range. .