60 journalists killed in 2008, says press watchdog

December 30th, 2008 - 10:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, Dec 30 (DPA) At least 60 journalists and one media assistant were killed around the world while carrying out their work this year, the press watchdog Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday.Some 673 journalists were arrested, 29 were kidnapped and 929 were physically attacked or threatened, the Paris-based organization said in its Press Freedom Roundup for 2008.

Iraq remained the most dangerous country for journalists, with 15 killed this year, followed by Pakistan were seven journalists were killed. Six media representatives lost their lives in the Philippines, making it the third most dangerous country for journalists.

In Africa, the death toll dropped from 12 in 2007 to only three in 2008 - a decline which Reporters Without Borders attributed to the fact that many journalists stopped working, often going into exile, and to the gradual disappearance of news media in war zones such as Somalia.

In comparison, 86 journalists and 20 media assistants were killed around the world in 2007, while 887 were arrested and 1,511 were beaten up.

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, the organisation said.

As the print and broadcast media evolve and blogs become “a worldwide phenomenon, predatory activity is increasingly focusing on the internet”, it said.

In 2008, someone was for the first time killed while acting as a citizen journalist for an Internet blog. Chinese businessman Wei Wenhua was beaten to death by municipal police officers while filming a clash with demonstrators in Tianmen, Hubei province, on Jan 7.

According to the organistaion, 59 bloggers have been imprisoned worldwide. Online censorship was practised in 37 countries, foremost in Syria, followed by China and Iran, it added.

“Internet freedom has been crushed with particular severity in Myanmar,” it said, citing the case of two bloggers who were arrested and tried “in a disgraceful manner” and sentenced to “incredibly severe jail terms of 59 years and 20 years.”

These two men join Myanmar’s many other political prisoners, who include 16 journalists. In China, 30 journalists are in prison and in Cuba 20.

Abduction, the report said, is still very frequent in Afghanistan, where seven journalists and media assistants were kidnapped this year. Somalia and Mexico followed with five kidnappings each. Next came Iraq with four abductions.

Reporters Without Borders said it only counted cases in which a link between the violation and the victim’s work as a journalist was clearly established.

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