BRUSSELS - A record number of media workers died last year while doing their job, amid a growing trend toward the targeted killing of journalists, the International Federation of Journalists said on Monday.
At least 89 journalists were murdered because of their professional work, the IFJ said, out of a total of 150 media deaths in 2005.
The uncle (L) and father of Reuters journalist, Waleed Khaled, cry over his his body at Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital after he was shot in the Iraqi capital's Al Ghazalea district August 28, 2005. A record number of media staff died last year in the course of their work, as a trend toward the targeted assassination of journalists intensified, the International Federation of Journalists said on Monday. REUTERS/Ali Jasim
"The numbers are staggering," IFJ general secretary Aidan White said in an annual report entitled "Targeting and tragedy - journalists and media staff killed in 2005".
"It was an unprecedented year ... the IFJ has counted 89 who were killed in the line of duty, singled out for their professional work. In 2005 the trend toward targeted assassination of editorial staff has intensified."
The largest number of deliberate killings, 38, was recorded in the Middle East, all but three of them in Iraq, making the region "by far the world's most deadly beat for reporters in the field," the report said.
"Most of those who died were local, many of them working for international media outlets in Iraq where the streets are too dangerous for foreigners to tread."
On top of the 35 targeted killings in Iraq, the report noted that another five journalists were killed there by U.S. troops, including Reuters soundman Waleed Khaled, shot in the face and chest by U.S. military forces on August 28.
This brought to 18 the number of reporters and media staff killed "at the hands of occupation forces since 2003 and reinforcing calls led by the IFJ for independent investigations into these deaths to eliminate suspicions of targeting," the report said.
White blamed governments, not only authoritarian regimes interested in silencing journalists, but also in democratic countries where politicians had what he called an ambiguous relationship with the press, for failing to take the problem seriously.
"There is still absolute inertia ... more than 90 percent of every killing that we record will not be properly investigated," he told a news conference after the report's publication.
"If we were nurses, if we were nuns, if we were ... doctors working out in the field there would be immediate political concern. But because we are journalists and because our role is ambiguous as far as politicians are concerned, there is a tendency to ignore or downplay the crisis."
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines was the most dangerous country for journalists, with 10 killed, almost all deliberately. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 12 were killed in Colombia, Haiti, Mexico and Brazil.
At least 61 deaths of media workers in 2005 resulted from accidents, the report said, of which by far the worst was the December 6 crash of a military aircraft in Tehran in which 48 journalists and media staff died.
© Reuters 2006