The Australian has pointed the finger at Fairfax Media over its suspension of The Age editor-in-chief Mark Forbes on the eve of the Walkley Awards, claiming the publisher knew about the sexual harassment allegation against him for up to two weeks before taking action.
According to the News Corp masthead, insiders said Fairfax told Mr Forbes he was being stood down after the publisher received a phone call from The Australian on Friday suggesting it was trying to cover up the incident by letting him stay in his role while a discreet investigation was under way.
The Australian said it is understood the woman made a formal complaint to management after Forbes allegedly groped her on the backside at The Age Music Victoria Awards in November.
A Fairfax spokesperson refused to disclose details about when the woman first made the publisher aware of the allegation and the timing of Forbes’ suspension, but did not deny he was suspended after the media inquiry, The Australian reported.
“We make no apology for following due process in investigating any HR-related matter,” the spokesperson said.
“Your suggestion that your inquiry was key to the timing of the announcement of the decision is incorrect and conceited.”
Fairfax said in a statement issued to The Australian on Friday that The Age editor Alex Lavelle is overseeing the newsroom pending the outcome of an investigation into the allegation against Forbes.
However, The Australian has since discovered that another female journalist lodged a formal complaint about Forbes to both Fairfax chief Greg Hywood and group director of news and business Sean Aylmer over the weekend, alleging he leered at her cleavage and made inappropriate comments.
The alleged incident took place at a social function back in February when Forbes was news director, according to The Australian.