World media death toll up, 53 killed in 2004-report


Journalism is becoming an increasingly dangerous profession, claiming 53 victims last year compared with 40 killed in the line of work in 2003, the media watchdog Reporters without Borders (RsF) said on Tuesday.

In a report for World Press Freedom Day, the Paris-based organization said last year's death toll was the highest since 1995.

"It may never have been as dangerous to inform people," RsF said in a statement. "Freedom of the press is far from being assured around the world."

Reporters without Borders listed Iraq as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists: "Nineteen were killed in 2004 and more than 15 were taken hostage."

A total of 56 journalists and their assistants have been killed in two years in Iraq, making it more dangerous than the 1991-1995 fighting in former Yugoslavia, during which 49 journalists were killed, it said.

A total of 63 journalists were killed in Vietnam, the worst war for journalists, but that was over a 20-year period from 1955 to 1975, it added.

Asia was not far behind Iraq in 2004, with 16 journalists killed. "Almost all of them were killed because they expressed their opinions," it said.

"Denouncing the corruption of elected officials or investigating crime turned out to be fatal for journalists in Bangladesh, Philippines and Sri Lanka," it said.

The fact that the Philippines had more press freedom than almost any other Asian country did not help the six journalists slain by killers hired by corrupt local politicians, it said.

Twelve journalists died while working in Latin America and one in Africa, the report added.

Reporters without Borders also published an "Enemies of Press Freedom Blacklist" naming "those who have personally committed crimes or grave offences against journalists or media and who are still unpunished."

The list included leaders of many countries where reporters have been killed as well as violent movements that have pressured or killed journalists reporting on their activities.

The report praised the broad wave of support shown for French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot when they were taken hostage in Iraq in August 2004 and held for four months.

"But the happy outcome must not hide the grim reality that press freedom is having a hard time," it wrote. "It's being attacked, trampled on, disdained or ignored everywhere in the world."

Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited.

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