I’ve written about the American journalist Christopher Allen, recently killed covering conflict in the South of Sudan, here, on the Truth Speaker:
The South Sudan government has recently changed its story and now says it “regrets” the killing of an American freelance journalist, on Saturday, August 26th, sending its condolences to his family. Chris was killed by South Sudanese government forces while embedded with rebel forces loyal to Riek Machar in the South Sudan-Uganda border area of Kaya.
But initially, Information Minister and government spokesman Michael Makuei had said:
“Sixteen rebels, including a white rebel, were killed. The identity of that man is not known, but he was among the rebels who attacked the garrison.” Then, Makuei changed the narrative, saying Allen was killed in the cross-fire as government troops fought to repulse the rebels.
Yet, Chris was shot in the head, and at pretty close range, by Sudan government forces. This wasn’t ‘caught in the crossfire’, etc, someone saw Chris, and shot him in the head…
A rebel spokesman said that Chris (a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, who began his journalistic career in Ukraine, 2014) was wearing a clearly marked press vest, and had been shot at after he began to take pictures. “Allen was targeted. The person who shot saw him very clearly,” Colonel Paul Lam Gabriel told the AFP.
Sudan’s government have said Allen was “not targeted” and that the government regretted it, but added that “anybody on that side is usually a target. Mr Makuei claimed Allen had entered South Sudan illegally after being denied a visa “because of his hostile reports.” I could find no evidence of his ‘hostile reports’.
They further added “If Allen entered South Sudan illegally then he is a criminal,” said Mr Makuei. “Had he not died we would have apprehended him and taken him to the court.” (Note: Chris apparently entered South Sudan through Kampala. About 20 other journalists also were denied entry into the country by South Sudan’s Media Authority in May and June.) And that “that if Allen was reporting “on the activities of the rebels then definitely he was a rebel.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists has said in a statement it was “deeply troubled” by the suggestion Allen was not deserving of civilian status and called for an independent investigation into the circumstances of his death. His parents support this investigation, adding:
“We respect and admire our son, whose unyielding passion for journalism was driven by his desire to tell some of the world’s most critical stories. As loving parents, we were fearful whenever he entered a war zone and our hearts sank when we learned he was going to South Sudan. Yet Christopher was a truth seeker, committed to uncovering the full context of the stories he reported even when this required personal risk. His research was firsthand and thorough, and he cared deeply about the real people involved in and affected by conflict.
We are devastated by the loss of our beloved son and cannot begin to imagine our lives without him. Like Christopher, we believe access to information is fundamental to a free and thriving society and we must continue to protect journalists in order to maintain press freedom in the United States and across the globe. Just as Christopher sought the truth of the tragedies and difficulties of others, we will now work to establish the truth of the circumstances of his killing.”
More than one million people have fled into neighbouring Uganda since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, creating one of the world’s biggest refugee crises.
Ten journalists have been killed in South Sudan since 2012. My own view is that whether or not Chris was wearing a ‘press’ vest is unimportant. He was clearly not a combatant. He was clearly a journalist, doing the job of a journalist, reporting from the scene. South Sudan have ruled out a probe into Chris’ death.
I remember this tweet Chris sent me, when I was in the Lugansk blockade of 2014, Donbass.
And I’ll remember Chris Allen as a brave man, a journalist, unjustly killed, trying to bring us the truth. Respect, and RIP Chris.