A global press freedom watchdog on Wednesday called for an independent investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of U.S. journalist Christopher Allen in South Sudan.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also urged authorities in Juba to respect all journalists’ status as civilians.
“We call for a credible, independent investigation into the killing of Christopher Allen so that those responsible can be held to account,” CPJ Africa Programme Coordinator Angela Quintal said in a statement.
The media watchdog said Allen, who was killed covering conflict there on Aug. 26, was deserving of civilian status.
South Sudan’s army, a rebel spokesman, and the U.S. Embassy in the capital Juba confirmed that Allen was killed during the fighting between government and rebel forces in Kaya, near the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Allen had been embedded with opposition forces for two weeks, Col. Lam Gabriel, the rebel’s deputy spokesman said.
“Taking photographs and reporting events is not attacking. It is journalistic work done by civilians, who are protected under international law,” Quintal said.
Several journalists have since been killed during ongoing more than three years of violence in the youngest nation in unclear circumstances that have not been conclusively investigated, amid international condemnation.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Machar led to fighting that pitted mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.