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For world's journalists, 2000s a 'decade of death'

By Joe Sterling, CNN
  • 735 journalists killed in areas of conflict during from 2000-2009, group reports
  • Vast majority of journalists killed were targeted, says head of journalists group
  • Iraq, Philippines, Colombia most deadly countries for journalists, report shows

(CNN) -- For the working press across the globe, the past 10 war-ridden years represent a "decade of death" and the world remains "mired in an age of barbarity" when it comes to "the deliberate murder" of hundreds of journalists.

That is a major thrust of the International Press Institute's World Press Freedom Review 2009, a grim catalogue of facts and trends recording the challenges in disseminating news.

The group's latest yearly review focuses in on press freedom in every country across the turbulent Middle East and North Africa. But this year, the institute took the opportunity to reflect on the events of the past 10 years, what the report says is a black stretch of history for journalism.

"This decade is unlike any other, because, in conflict countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Pakistan, it has seen the deliberate targeting of journalists," said Anthony Mills, managing editor of the World Press Freedom Review based in Vienna, Austria.


"Such a departure has changed the face of conflict reporting, leading to less coverage and therefore a worrying vacuum in the understanding of these complex events."

The report said 735 journalists died in conflict between 2000 and 2009. Mills says the vast majority of those killed were targeted for death and others were those who died in accidents while on the job.

Breaking down the toll by region, 238 journalists were killed in Asia, 202 in the Middle East and North Africa, 162 in the Americas, 68 in Europe, 53 in the rest of Africa, and 12 in the Caribbean.

"If anything, the number of journalists murdered is increasing. Compared to the first half of the decade, the assassination rate for journalists has risen by more than 40 percent," the report said.

Country-by-country, the largest number of deaths this decade occurred in Iraq, where 170 died covering the insurgency and the sectarian violence.

The Philippines came in second as the most dangerous country with 93 deaths, including 32 last year in a massacre of reporters accompanying relatives of a politician.

The fighting in Colombia between government forces, armed groups like the FARC and drug cartels left 58 journalists dead, and the violence in Mexico between security forces and drug cartels racked up 38 journalists killed.

Thirty-five journalists were killed in Russia, 31 in Pakistan, 23 in India, 22 in Somalia, 17 in Brazil and 17 in Sri Lanka.

"When it comes to the deliberate murder of journalists because of their work, we are still mired in an age of barbarity, with the number of journalists killed in 2009, at 110, higher than the 66 killed in 2008 and far higher than the 56 killed in 2000," the report said.