Australian journalist has iPad grabbed after approaching Mail Online's Martin Clarke at late-night Cannes party

An Australian reporter has alleged that Mail Online staff stole his iPad (later returned) and poured beer over a colleague after he approached publisher Martin Clarke for a comment.

Business media writer for The Australian Darren Davidson approached Clarke at a late night party in Cannes to ask him about allegations Mail Online is lifting stories from rival publications in Australia.

He told Press Gazette: “Martin has continually evaded my questions about allegations of plagiarism.

“News Corp, my employer, and Seven West Media, a listed media conglomerate controlled by Kerry Stokes, have both sent the Mail cease and desist letters about this practice at their newly-launched Oz operation.

“On Monday night, I was uninvited to a yacht party hosted by the Mail to brief advertising executives and journos about their commercial strategy. I wrote about this and filmed a video.

"I approached Martin for comment aided by another journalist. He stole my iPad and we had beer thrown over us.”

Press Gazette understands that the incident happened when Clarke was approached at a private party organised by Spotify at the Cannes Lions festival after Davidson was declined entry to the Mail Online yacht party.

Press Gazette understands that Mail Online staff's version of the incident, which happened at 1.30am, has Davidson declining to stop filming, or stop asking questions. Insiders there believe the iPad was taken, and the beer spilt accidentally, when a scuffle broke out and they insist that nothing was deleted from the iPad. 

In his report of the incident Davidson said:

I asked Clarke why he was ignoring my attempts to seek comment in relation to allegations the Mail Online lifted content from other news sites.

Upon approaching Clarke, I informed him that he was being filmed by McCormick and his comments recorded, as journalists are required to do when seeking to conduct an interview.

A young woman accompanying Clarke pushed and shoved me and McCormick, who is editorial director of The Knowledge Engineers.

Clarke’s associate grabbed my iPad and left the event with Clarke, who walked down the road holding the iPad, as I and McCormick followed to attempt to retrieve it.

I repeatedly asked Clarke to return my iPad, but he refused to hand it over and a dispute arose.

Clarke eventually handed the iPad to an unidentified woman who was then persuaded to return it to me.

The video of my interaction with Clarke had been deleted by the time the iPad was returned.”

Mail Australia spokesman Sean Walsh said: "Categorically Martin Clarke told Darren Davidson politely several times that he had nothing else to say, but he ignored him and started asking aggressive questions simply for the benefit of his friend who was trying to film him. Darren Davidson never received a formal invitation to any of Mail Online's events in Cannes."

Davidson today took issue with Mail Online's version of the Cannes incident as reported by The Guardian.

He told Press Gazette: "Martin Clarke and the Mail Online continue to evade serious questions about allegations of plagiarism , breach of copyright and operating a sweatshop for young under paid journalists who are co-opted to steal articles from other media outlets.

"These practices threaten a vibrant, diversified, strong press. I was disappointed to see The Guardian's Australian outpost publish a story which insinuated i used my height to physically intimidate Martin, which could not be further from the truth.

"I was polite, and deferential. I have witnesses who have testified to my professional conduct. Had Martin said 'no thanks', I would have wished him a good evening and been on my way.

"Incidentally, I'm not 6ft 7 as the article claims. It was also disappointing because I've been told by friends at The Guardian Alan Rusbridger has made supportive comments about our stories.

"I emailed Alan this morning and said his masthead's article is unbalanced and no one contacted me or News to collaborate information supplied via anonymous Mail Online sources. That they're anonymous says it all really.

"I've had very supportive messages from media executives and editors from all over the world, which just shows this is a really important issue for all of us. Not just my employer News Corp, and Seven West Media. It's time the Mail Online was held to account for this dubious practice."

Meanwhile, Mail Online has pointed out to Press Gazette that it made a detailed statement responding to the claims of story-lifting on Monday.

Here it is in full: 

News Corp’s accusations are preposterous.

This is a cynical attempt to damage the reputation of MailOnline and its hard-working journalists.

At the Daily Mail Australia we aim to break news stories each day and have already begun to do so (examples attached).

However, like all news media – in particular the giant American digital news-aggregation sites – we also follow up on the stories of the day that have been covered elsewhere. 

At MailOnline we pride ourselves that when we tackle a story in the public domain we always try to add some new piece of information, pictures or video.

And if we rely on material from another news organisation's stories we ensure that the source is clearly attributed and include a hyperlink that directs our readers back to the original story – in common with best web aggregation practice.

Sadly this courtesy does not hold true at News Corp.

When carrying MailOnline or Daily Mail material we have discovered that News Corp often neglect to name their source and even when they do, they most often don’t provide a link back to the original story.

Rupert Murdoch is a brilliant, buccaneering innovator who built a global media empire by challenging old business models and vested interests. How sad that the King Canutes now running his Australian print operation are so unfamiliar with how the modern digital world works.

MailOnline is proud to have created over 50 new Australian reporting jobs and plans to hire many more.

This will be in addition to the hundreds of journalists' posts it has already created in London, New York and Los Angeles."

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