South Sudan: pressure grows over killing of American journalist

American journalist Christopher Allen who was killed in South Sudan in 2017 (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

August 27th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – Pressure is growing against South Sudan government over its hesitance to conduct investigation into the killing of American journalist, Christopher Allen, who was killed in the country’s Central Equatoria state in 2017 while covering fighting between government and rebel forces.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and seven other human rights groups on Monday held two parallel protests outside the embassies of South Sudan in the United States and London respectively, on the occasion of the second anniversary of the murder of independent American journalist Christopher Allen.

The seven press freedom organizations that joined RSF in solidarity protests include, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Frontline Freelance Register, Index on Censorship, PEN America, PEN International, and the Rory Peck Trust.

According to RSF, Christopher Allen, 26 years old and was killed while covering South Sudan’s brutal civil war at the time of his death, “Allen was killed when fighting broke out between government and opposition forces during a rebel offensive on 26 August 2017.

Since then, the South Sudanese government has refused to pursue accountability for his killing despite evidence that suggests Allen was targeted for taking photographs of the battle. The US and UK governments and the United Nations have also failed to provide his family with serious support or assistance. ”

Several human rights groups, members of the family of Christopher Allen joined the protests outside South Sudan’s embassies in the United States and the UK in memory of the life of the fallen journalist.

“In Washington DC, Allen’s parents John Allen and Joyce Krajian called on South Sudan to conduct an impartial investigation, and for the US government to take action if South Sudan continues to fail to comply with its duties under international law” the statement partly reads.

Adding that, “Afterward, representatives of RSF and the Allens were granted an impromptu meeting with South Sudanese Ambassador to the US, Phillip Jada Natana, who expressed his condolences and agreed to engage on this issue and push forward an investigation. In London, Allen’s cousin Jeremy Bliss urged the US and UK governments to step into the gap left by South Sudan’s inaction, and ensure an investigation takes place. ”

Commenting on the issue, the Director of the UK Bureau of the Reporters sans frontière, Rebecca Vincent expressed her anger at the lack of support from the British government and the US government.

“Two years is far too long for Chris Allen’s family to be left lacking even the most basic answers about what happened, at a time when they are grieving such a horrific loss. Two years is also far too long for this shameful lack of support from the UK and US governments to have continued.

Today we gather not only to remember Chris and to renew calls for justice, but also to demand an end to this inaction by the very institutions that are meant to provide support and help achieve accountability for this heinous crime,” said Rebecca Vincent, RSF UK Bureau Director.

The Executive Director of RSF’s North America Bureau, Dokhi Fassihian urged the U.S government to put pressure on the government of South Sudan to hold those responsible for Allen’s death accountable.

“It has been two years to this day that Chris Allen was killed while reporting on the civil war in South Sudan. We are outraged that two years later there has been no inquiry into his death and that Chris’s family is forced to fight for justice for their son.

The South Sudanese government must investigate this crime as a matter of international law, and we call on the US and UK governments to press South Sudan to comply with their obligation,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF’s North America bureau.

The Advocacy Director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Courtney Radsch pointed out that, there is a need to set up an independent commission to investigate Allen’s death immediately.

“There is an urgent need for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing of Christopher Allen while he was reporting in South Sudan. The Committee to Protect Journalists stands with the Allen family in their demand that the South Sudanese government holds accountable those responsible for his death,” said Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, Jodie Ginsberg appealed to the British Government to ensure that justice is served.

“The UK government made media freedom its major foreign office campaign of this year. We urge the UK and US to help Christopher Allen’s family in securing justice and accountability for his killing. Failure to punish those responsible for the killings of journalists emboldens those who use violence to suppress the media,” said Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship.

The Washington Director of PEN America,Thomas O. Melia said,  “The PEN America family of writers and readers stands in solidarity with the family of Christopher Allen, and our allied organizations in Europe and America, in calling for a professional investigation in to the circumstances of his murder. Those responsible must be brought to justice. ”

“The Rory Peck Trust is committed to supporting the families of fallen journalists whenever we can. Our thoughts remain with Chris Allen’s family. Two years is too long to wait for answers,” said Clothilde Redfern, Director of the Rory Peck Trust.

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