Fewer journalists killed on the job in 2008

But Reporters Without Borders has no cause for optimism

LONDON -- The number of journalists killed worldwide while working fell by nearly a quarter in the past year. But the lowered numbers reflect more journalists being forced to abandon their jobs rather than an increase in safety, according to the annual report on press freedom published Tuesday by Reporters Without Borders.

The news came as Spanish police said a bomb that exploded outside a regional Bilbao television station in the early hours of Wednesday morning had been the work of Spanish separatist group ETA.

Publishing its annual press freedom round-up Tuesday, the Paris-based organization said 60 journalists were killed in 2008, down from 86 in 2007, with Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines accounting for the highest number of deaths per country.

Arrests also fell, from 887 in 2007 to 673 in 2008, while the number of kidnappings also fell from 67 last year to 29 in the 12 months of 2008.

In the post-Sept. 11 world even leading Western governments had imposed limitations on press freedom, the report found, adding that actions of Western powers also put their reporters in increased danger.

“Foreign correspondents face growing hostility if they are from countries that are part of, or associated with, the U.S.-led ‘anti-terrorist’ coalition.”

Despite the lowered death toll, Reporters Without Borders said it had “no cause for optimism” because repression was spreading to the Internet.

“The fall in the number of journalists from the traditional media killed or arrested in 2008 does not mean the press freedom situation has improved. As the print and broadcast media evolve and the blogosphere becomes a worldwide phenomenon, predatory activity is increasingly focusing on the Internet,” the report found, citing Burma, China, Iran and Syria as places where bloggers increasingly faced arrest and imprisonment.

In the past year one blogger was killed, 59 were arrested, 45 were physically attacked and 1,740 Web sites were shut down or suspended.
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