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Violence and repressive laws take heavy toll on global press freedom

(IPI/IFEX) - December 31, 2012 - This year of continuing change in the world of news media has also been marked by an appalling and disturbing truth: an unprecedented 132 journalists were killed in the line of duty or as a consequence of their reporting in 2012.

This year's figure is the highest since the International Press Institute (IPI) started systematically keeping track of journalists' death in 1997. The previous record high was in 2009, when 110 journalists were killed – 32 of them in the infamous Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines. Last year, IPI counted a total of 102 journalists who lost their lives because of their reporting.

A number of factors contributed to the increase in the death toll in 2012. On one hand, traditionally dangerous countries for journalists – including Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Honduras, Mexico and Brazil – have failed to implement policies to limit attacks against journalists. On the other hand, in Syria alone at least 31 journalists and eight citizen reporters were killed while covering the conflict there.

Both pro-government and opposition forces targeted and kidnapped journalists and media workers in Syria, treating them in many instances as military targets. In mid-December, NBC News' Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and four others were freed after being detained for five days following a fire-fight that erupted when captors transporting them encountered a rebel checkpoint. Three other foreign journalists are believed to currently be held in Syria: Ukrainian journalist Anhar Kochneva, Jordanian-Palestinian correspondent Bashar Fahmi and freelance U.S. reporter Austin Tice.

“It is almost unbelievable that so many journalists have died this year,” IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said. “It is the largest number of journalists' deaths in a single year since IPI officially began keeping count in 1997.”

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