BRUSSELS/PARIS (Reuters) - Last year was one of the deadliest on record for journalists with at least 86 killed because of their work and Iraq being the most dangerous place for reporters, two media rights watchdogs said on Wednesday.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said 2007 was the deadliest year for journalists since 1994, when deaths swelled as a result of the Rwandan genocide.
It put the number of journalists killed because of their work at 86, of whom 47 died in Iraq. The total is one more than in 2006.
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which also counts media workers killed in accidents, said last year’s level of 171 deaths was close to the record of 177 set in 2006.
The toll included 134 murders and violent deaths and 37 deaths in accidents on assignment.
“Violence against journalists remains at extremely high levels for the third year in a row,” IFJ President Jim Boumelha said in a statement.
“The scale of attacks on journalists marks a continuing crisis filled with unlimited human tragedy and relentless attacks on press freedom,” he added.
Reporters without Borders also highlighted the dangers in Iraq.
“No country has ever seen more journalists killed than Iraq, with at least 207 media workers dying there since the March 2003 U.S. invasion -- more than in the Vietnam War, the fighting in ex-Yugoslavia, the massacres in Algeria or the Rwanda genocide,” the group said in its report on 2007.
A further 20 media assistants, including drivers, translators and other professions, were killed in 2007, down from 32 in 2006, the group said.
Reporters without Borders said its toll was the highest since 103 journalists were killed in 1994, nearly half of them in Rwanda’s genocide.
It said Iraqi and U.S. authorities were guilty of serious violence against journalists and must take firm steps to end all attacks on reporters. Iraqi journalists are targeted by armed groups and are not simply victims of stray bullets, RSF said.
The next deadliest place for reporters last year was Somalia, where eight reporters were killed in attacks linked to clashes between rebels and government forces backed by Ethiopian military allies. Half of them were killed by “hitmen”.
“Somalia is still very much a country of outlaws where the strongest rule and the media are easy targets,” it said.
RSF said six journalists were killed in Pakistan in suicide attacks and fighting between government forces and Islamist militants, including a reporter who died in the suicide bombing of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto’s motorcade in October.
“The only good news of the past year is that for the first time in 15 years no journalists were killed in Colombia because of their work,” RSF said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said last month at least 64 journalists were killed. Like RSF, it said 2007 was the most deadly year for reporters since 1994.
Writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Matthew Tostevin
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.