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South Sudan says killing of US journalist ‘not targeted’

August 30, 2017

South Sudan sought to defend on Wednesday the killing of a US journalist who was shot dead last week while embedded with rebel fighters.

Christopher Allen, a 26-year old reporter who had previously worked in Ukraine and Turkey, was shot in the head during a battle between the South Sudanese army and rebels in the southwestern town of Kawa on Saturday.

“The killing of Christopher Allen was not targeted,” said information minister Michael Makuei, denying reports that government soldiers had deliberately killed him. “But anybody on that side is usually a target,” he added.

Allen had been embedded with rebels from the SPLA-IO in order to report on South Sudan’s civil war, ongoing since late 2013. The government has made it increasingly difficult for journalists to access the conflict, which has been characterised by widespread murder, rape and displacement of civilians.

Makuei claimed Allen had been denied a visa “because of his hostile reports” and had therefore entered the country “illegally”. It is unclear whether Allen had indeed reported from South Sudan in the past.

“If Allen entered South Sudan illegally then he is a criminal,” said Makuei. “Had he not died we would have apprehended him and take him to the court.”

He added “it’s unfortunate. We regret his death.”

Makuei also said there was “nothing that could indicate he was a freelance journalist” and said that if Allen was reporting “on the activities of the rebels then definitely he was a rebel.”

Colonel Paul Lam Gabriel, an SPLA-IO spokesman, disputed Makuei’s version of events saying Allen was wearing a clearly marked press badge and carrying a camera when he was killed.

“Allen was targeted. The person who shot saw him very clearly,” he said.

On Tuesday’s Allen’s body was handed over to officials from the US embassy.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.