Syrian Gov didn't pay for Reverend's Trip to Syria, Church Times Admits 'Significant Error' - iMediaEthics

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A column in the Church Times claimed that Reverend Giles Fraser took a “freebie” trip to Syria last month that was paid for by the Syrian government.

Fraser, a journalist and the priest-in-charge at St. Mary’s Newington in London, complained that the article was inaccurate, saying he actually paid for the trip, the Press Gazette reported.

The column was written by the Church Times’ weekly columnist Andrew Brown. The Church Times is a UK news site and weekly print edition focused on “independent reporting of Church and world news.”

Via e-mail, Church Times editor Paul Handley told iMediaEthics, “Our press columnist Andrew Brown checked various facts about the Syria trip of which Giles Fraser was a member, but not the key fact about who paid for it.”

Handley said he removed the article form the website and wrote an apology after hearing from Giles. “Giles also asked us to publish a letter from him, which we did,” he added.”

In a March 11 letter to the editor, Fraser criticized Brown, claiming he had not tried “to establish some simple facts.”

“Had he asked me, I would have been able to let him know that I paid for the trip myself: the flight, the hotels,” Fraser wrote. “So, no, not a freebie. I thank the Church Times for the retraction printed today, and I accept your apology.”

Brown told iMediaEthics by e-mail that before publication he asked Giles “whether he regretted the trip,” but didn’t specifically ask about who paid for the trip.He noted that his column only mentioned who paid for the trip in passing. “The CT press column  deals with subjects of religious or ethical controversy in the media,” Brown wrote noting that Giles used to write for the Church Times. “This is all a squabble in a very small duck pond,” he added.”

The paper apologized and admitted in a note atop a May 11 column it erred. “First, there was a significant error in last week’s column: Canon Giles Fraser’s trip to Syria was paid for by him personally, and not funded by the Syrian government, as suggested in the column” the note reads. “We are happy to make this clear and apologise for the error.”

Brown, who wrote the article that erred about Fraser’s trip, tweeted that he made “an unprofessional mistake about the arrangement for his trip, and I apologise.”

“Yes, I should have asked, and we cleared up the mistake as soon as it was brought to our attention,” Brown wrote to iMediaEthics. “But it’s not true that I made no attempt to check the story. I did check what seemed to me important: had Giles said ‘I made a fool of myself on Twitter, and I should have noticed that the man I was praising was a mass murderer’ I’d have let the story go,. But he didn’t. He doubled down on how right he had been to go on the trip, quite ignoring the fact that he’s been criticised not for going, but for the use he made of the experience. ”

iMediaEthics has tweeted to Fraser to ask for further comment.



“The Church Times is not regulated by an external press regulator,” the Press Gazette noted.


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Syrian Gov didn’t pay for Reverend’s Trip to Syria, Church Times Admits ‘Significant Error’

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