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2018-05-16 03:17:40

Jonathan Kaiman, the Beijing bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, has again been accused of sexual misconduct — the second such allegation this year. 

The Los Angeles Times has suspended Kaiman and launched an investigation into the allegations, the newspaper said. “We do not have any further comment at this time,” the newspaper’s communications director told Sixth Tone via email on Wednesday.

Felicia Sonmez, who was previously a news editor at the Wall Street Journal, detailed her experiences in an email to the board of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) with permission for its contents to be shared. She accuses Kaiman of sexual misconduct following the club’s summer party in September 2017. At her request, the FCCC board forwarded her full email to all members on Tuesday evening.

“Even though parts of the evening were consensual … Jon escalated things in a way that crossed the line,” Sonmez wrote. “[He] began digitally penetrating me without my consent. I told him no but he forcefully continued until I was able to physically pull him away.”

Kaiman had been president of the FCCC until January, when another accusation came to light. At the time, the board did not announce the reasons for Kaiman’s resignation but instead allowed him to draft his own resignation statement. Sonmez wrote in her email that she had decided to speak up because of how the board had handled the issue.

“I’m writing to you now because more questions should have been raised, and there have unfortunately been negative consequences to the board’s decision,” Sonmez wrote, explaining that many believed Kaiman had voluntarily resigned in response to a single, years-old incident.

In January, Kaiman’s friend Laura Tucker published a blog post in which she described an incident from 2013 in Beijing. “I was pressured into sex by an opportunistic friend,” Tucker wrote. “I explicitly voiced my lack of consent several times, and my words had no effect … Most of my Beijing connections are now gone but I want my story to be available there. I also want to add my voice to the broader outcry against sexual misconduct.”

As journalists around the world expose sexual abuses and help push forward the #MeToo movement, the media sector has also faced its own moment of reckoning. In the United States, veteran journalists including the NBC’s Matt Lauer and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly have been accused of sexual misconduct. Earlier this year, a Columbia Journalism Review survey noted that 41 percent of its 300 respondents — male, female, queer, and straight — had been subjected to harassment at work, whether in the newsroom or as freelancers. Similar stories have surfaced from Chinese media outlets.

After the January allegations, Kaiman resigned from his position as the FCCC president and apologized to Tucker in a three-part thread on his personal Twitter account. The board also announced his resignation on its Twitter page and thanked Kaiman for his “hard work, enthusiasm, and many contributions to the club.”

Sonmez’s email on Tuesday said that the FCCC board had missed an important opportunity to voice its intolerance against sexual misconduct, though it had been made aware in January that Tucker’s story may have formed part of a wider pattern of behavior. At the time, Sonmez had kept her experiences anonymous. “At this point, however, staying silent is worse than the potential consequences of speaking up,” she wrote.

Kaiman has worked in China since 2011, first as an intern for The New York Times and then as a correspondent for British newspaper The Guardian before joining the Los Angeles Times in 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile. Kaiman has not responded to Sixth Tone’s request for comment.

Within an hour of forwarding Sonmez’s email to the FCCC’s members, the board also sent a statement on the issue in which it detailed its response to the January accusation. “The board is deeply sorry for the damage caused both to Felicia Sonmez and the membership by its decision against releasing a full and transparent account of the board meeting preceding Mr. Kaiman’s resignation immediately after it took place, and for not making the reasons for Kaiman’s departure clear,” it wrote.

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously said that Sonmez’s email was forwarded to FCCC members on Monday, instead of Tuesday.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: Drivers wait in their vehicles at a traffic light in front of the LA Times headquarters in Los Angeles, Feb. 7, 2018. Frederic J. Brown/VCG)