, UNITED NATIONS, Feb 17 – A record total of 70 journalists were killed in their work around the world last year, including 31 in the Philippines, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in its annual survey released Tuesday.
The 350-page report said the record toll was driven by the mass, election-related killings in the Philippines\’ Maguindanao province, the deadliest event for the press in CPJ history and escalating violence in Somalia.
The survey titled "Attacks on the Press in 2009" noted that last year\’s tally surpassed the previous record of 67 deaths set in 2007 when violence in Iraq was pervasive. Some 41 fatalities were recorded in 2008.
The survey, which was unveiled ata press conference here Tuesday, identified 136 reporters, editors and photojournalists behind bars as of last December 1, up 11 from 2008.
As in the previous 10 years, China remained the world\’s worst jailer of journalists last year — 24 held, including 22 freelancers –, followed by Iran, Cuba, Eritrea and Myanmar (Burma).
Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian correspondent for Newsweek who was jailed in Iran in June and released four months later, told reporters that more than 100 journalists, bloggers and writers had been arrested in Iran at different periods since last June\’s disputed presidential polls, including more than 65 who were still behind bars.
Most of those were swept up in the Iranian government\’s post-election crackdown on dissent and the news media.
The survey noted Iraq became less dangerous than in previous years, with four journalists killed las year, the lowest figure since the start of the Us-led war in 2003.
But the number of fatalities rose in Somalia, with nine journalists killed last year.
The survey said that throughout the year, Islamist militants if the al-Shabaab militia "terrorizes the media through violence, threats, censorship," forcing many local journalists to flee into exile.
Four journalists were killed in Pakistan, where reporters are hard-pressed to cover areas controlled by Taliban insurgents.
As in previous years, murder is the main cause of death, the CPJ said. At least 51 journalists, roughly 75 percenf of the total, were killed.
Three murders were recorded in Russia, two in Mexico and two in Sri Lanka.
CPJ also said it was investigating the deaths of 24 other journalists around the world last year to determine if they were linked to their work.
And CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney appealed to UN chief Ban ki-moon to speak out more forcefully on the issue of freedom of the press.
"I would like the secretary general to make a more assertive and firm stand in defense of freedom of expression and privacy online and to send out a message to the other UN agencies and to the world that freedom of expression matters," he declared.