Christopher Allen, an American freelance journalist, was shot dead in Kaya, South Sudan, near the country’s borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, spokesmen with the country’s army and opposition forces told CPJ.
Allen, 26, had been embedded with the opposition forces for two weeks at the time of his death, Lam Paul Gabriel, a spokesperson for the opposition, told CPJ.
He was one of 19 people killed when fighting broke out between government and rebel forces on the morning of August 26, according to media reports. South Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war since 2013, which has displaced at least 3.9 million people, according to U.N. figures. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, according to media reports.
Gabriel, who has spoken with people who were present when Allen died, told CPJ that the journalist was deliberately targeted by government forces. South Sudanese army spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang denied that in an interview with CPJ.
Koang said that the army had no way of identifying Allen as a journalist until after he had been killed. Reuters quoted a rebel fighter who said that Allen was wearing a jacket marked “Press” at the time of his death. CPJ was unable to independently verify this.
Information minister Michael Makuei Lueth told Voice of America on August 28 that Allen was a “white rebel” who had come into South Sudan illegally. Lueth said that Allen had previously been denied entry into South Sudan on account of his “hostile reports.”
When he spoke with CPJ, Lueth did not specify what reports he was referring to in the VOA interview and referred CPJ to the government-run South Sudan Media Authority, which handles journalist visa request. Elijah Alier, Managing Director of the Media Authority, told CPJ that the authority has no records on Allen.
On August 30, Lueth said that Allen’s death on the “course of his duty” had been “regrettable”, according to Voice of America.
Bloomberg reported that authorities have ruled out an investigation into Allen’s death. The army’s deputy spokesperson Domic Chol Santo told CPJ on August 28 that investigations were “none of our business.”
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Leiden University in the Netherlands, Allen’s work was published by outlets including the BBC, Vice, The Telegraph, and Al-Jazeera.
His mother, Joyce Krajian, told Voice of America that Allen “chose to bear witness” through his journalism. He “chose to look unflinchingly at what was painful and see the humanity within it,” she said. Prior to covering South Sudan, Allen had covered the conflict in Ukraine.