Journalist killings on the rise

The war in Iraq has been blamed for the sharp increase from 19 in 2002, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Thirteen journalists, almost a third of the total, were killed in hostile actions in Iraq, while six others died from illness or traffic accidents while covering the war, said the CPJ in its annual report, Attacks on the Press.

It is the highest annual total from a single country since 24 journalists were killed in Algeria in 1995, at the height of civil strife between the government and Islamic militants.

“Western correspondents, who stand out and can be mistaken for coalition personnel or foreigners in general, were particularly vulnerable,” said the report.

However, the bulk of journalists killed last year were far from any battlefield.

Five were killed in the Philippines for their coverage of local corruption or criticising public officials.

Four more died in Colombia, three of them murdered for reports they had written.

The editor-in-chief of a Russian hard-hitting provincial paper was stabbed to death outside his house – the paper’s second editor-in-chief to be murdered in 18 months.

“Most murders of journalists continue to be committed with impunity,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

The report also pointed out that 136 journalists are behind bars around the world – 36 of them in China and 29 in Cuba. It is the fifth year in a row that China is the greatest jailer of journalists.

The watchdog also pointed out the example of Morocco where a long record of relative tolerance for critical media was broken last year by the arrest of several journalists under a new anti-terrorism law.

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