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One hundred journalists were killed last year, making 2006 "the most savage and brutal year in the modern history of the media," reports the International Press Institute in its 2006 World Press Freedom Review.

With more than 180 country reports, the review highlights major media developments as well as various threats to the media, including the brutal targeting of journalists. Not surprisingly, IPI reports that Iraq accounted for nearly half (46) of all journalists who lost their lives last year.

Asia followed the Middle East and North Africa as the most dangerous region in 2006, where 29 journalists were murdered because of their work. Sixteen of the 30 Asian countries analysed were ruled by non-elected or illegitimate governments, making for a lack of democracy in the media. Journalists and media organisations were attacked with impunity, and censorship, especially on the Internet, was rife.

In Latin America, left-leaning leaders consolidated their power in the dozen presidential elections in the region last year. But the leftist shift, a reaction to the failure of previous governments to effectively combat poverty, corruption and crime, has not brought with it greater press freedom, IPI reports. For the second year, Mexico was the most dangerous country in the Americas for journalists - seven were killed last year. Journalists region-wide had to contend with a rash of litigation, including criminal defamation and "desacato" (insult) lawsuits and excessive punitive damage awards in civil suits.

IPI also notes that 2006 was also marred by the controversy over the Danish cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammed, which led to the arrests and prosecution of numerous journalists worldwide - one journalist was even murdered in Sudan for reportedly writing on the subject. The "cartoon wars" led to renewed attempts to introduce a "defamation of religions" clause, which appeared in various UN documents.

Journalists in sub-Saharan Africa also suffered tremendous hardships - governments often appeared oblivious to their own role in hindering the media's attempt to report the news. Many assaults on journalists were carried out by the authorities, often incited to action by the vitriol of politicians towards the media.

The report, dedicated to the 100 journalists who lost their lives in 2006, also includes a short biography on those killed and a "watch list" of countries whose governments are becoming increasingly hostile to the media.

Access the 2006 World Press Freedom Review here:

(24 April 2007)

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