Journo deaths on rise around globe

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BRUSSELS -- The past 12 months have seen 180 journalists killed in the line of duty, a 10% increase from the 164 who died the year before, it emerged Thursday on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.

The International News Safety Institute said the deaths were recorded in 38 countries, but the worst killing ground continued to be Iraq with 79 dead. This was followed by the Philippines with 13, Mexico with eight, Afghanistan with six and Russia and Guyana with five each.

"The vast majority of the dead were not international conflict reporters but local journalists working in their own countries doing their daily jobs," INSI said in a statement. Most were shot by unknown assailants, but 10 died in bombings, six were savagely beaten, four were beheaded and two were tortured to death.

The most prominent murder was that of Russian investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya last October. She was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow. No one has been arrested for the crime.

The worst mass killings took place in Iraq and Guyana. In Iraq, masked gunmen executed 11 employees of fledgling satellite TV channel Al-Shaabiya in Baghdad in October. INSI now counts 194 news media dead in Iraq, most of them Iraqis, since the 2003 invasion. All of Guyana's dead occurred in August, when an armed gang slaughtered print technicians working for the newspaper Kaieteur News.

Earlier this year, INSI published the results of its two-year global inquiry into journalist deaths that showed that 1,000 journalists and support staff had died covering the news over the past decade. The toll is rising year-by-year. Fifty-two have died in the first four months of this year, compared with 33 over the same period last year.

"There can be no real press freedom in the world while journalists continue to be killed on the frontlines of truth in so many countries," INSI director Rodney Pinder said. "On this World Press Freedom Day, we appeal yet again for determined action by world bodies and national governments to stem the killings. They might start by ensuring the murderers of journalists are swiftly brought to justice."

World Press Freedom Day marks the anniversary of the 1991 Windhoek Declaration, which called for a free, independent and pluralistic media throughout the world. It has become a day to raise awareness of the sacrifices that independent media and journalists make to keep their societies informed.

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