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On Christmas Eve, broadcaster Fernando Lintuan was gunned down by two men in Davao, Philippines, just moments after completing his morning programme on local radio, reports the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). According to Lintuan's station manager, the killing was "definitely job-related" - Lintuan had recently criticised a new, multi-million dollar park launched by the local mayor, and often reported on illegal logging activities in the area.

The death of the Filipino radio host concludes one of the deadliest years for journalists on record, report IFEX members in their end of year reports.

According to its year-end analysis, CPJ recorded 65 journalists killed in direct connection to their work in 2007, the highest death toll in more than a decade. Last year's numbers are second only to that of 1994, when 66 journalists were killed in conflicts in Algeria, Bosnia and Rwanda. CPJ is investigating another 23 journalist deaths in 2007 to determine whether they were work-related.
- CPJ:
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) counts at least 86 journalists killed in the line of duty - up 244 per cent over five years. And at least two a day were arrested and more than 2,600 websites were blocked, says RSF. Unfortunately, about nine out of 10 journalists' killers continue to get away with murder. But two key cases in 2008 may buck the impunity trend, says RSF: the trials of suspected killers of Hrant Dink in Turkey and Anna Politkovskaya in Russia.
- RSF:
Meanwhile, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) says in its annual review that by mid-December, "a horrifying 102 journalists (had) written their last word and broadcast their last report." CJFE says the only glimmer of hope was that the media did not stop doing their job. Case in point: the picture of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai as he lay dying on a street in Rangoon, Burma, camera in hand, after being shot at point-blank range during the September protests.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which compiles figures in cooperation with the International News Safety Institute (INSI), says that 171 journalists and media workers were killed last year. IFJ includes all journalists killed because of their work as well as those killed in accident while on assignment or on their way to or from a story. Abdulkadir Ali Hosh, online editor of in Somalia, was added to the list on 24 December. He was killed in a car crash near Garowe, the capital of Puntland, Somalia on his way to cover a story.
- IFJ:
Despite the range in numbers, all agree that in 2007, violence against journalists hit extreme levels.

Once again, Iraq was the world's most dangerous country for the press. At least 31 journalists - all but one, Iraqi nationals - were killed for doing their job, say IFEX members, and account for about half of the 2007 death toll. Many of them were targeted, not simply victims of crossfire.

Like Ali Shafeya al-Moussawi, a correspondent of the award-winning news website Alive in Baghdad, who was found murdered in his Baghdad home with 31 bullet holes in his head and chest on 14 December. According to RSF, Iraqi military had raided his street.

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, CPJ reports that about 175 journalists and media workers have been killed, making it the deadliest conflict for the press in recent history. RSF puts the number at over 200.

The next three deadliest countries for media were Somalia with at least seven journalists killed for doing their work, and Sri Lanka and Pakistan, both with at least five murdered. According to CJFE, the three countries share a common trait: "unstable governments that pursue anti-free expression agendas in order to quash dissent. In such countries, journalists are portrayed as 'trouble-makers' who act against national interests."

In one horrific case in Pakistan, three members of a family have been killed in three separate attacks, reports CJFE. Hayat Ullah Khan's body was found laden with bullets in June 2006. His 11-year-old brother was killed several months later. Then last November, Khan's wife Mehr-un-Nisa was killed by a bomb planted near her home. The killings are believed to be an attempt to stop the family from trying to expose Khan's killers.

One piece of good news, the members report - for the first time in 15 years no journalists were killed in Colombia because of their work.

Sadly, the 2008 list of journalists killed has already had a name added to it.

PROBIDAD reports that on New Year's Day, two men entered the radio station Radio Mega in Santa Bárbara, Honduras, and repeatedly shot the owner of the station, José Fernando Gonzáles, killing him on the spot. Police say Gonzáles may have been killed for doing his work: he had been expanding his media holdings in the region.

But the future need not be so bleak. INSI points to some encouraging moves in 2007 that could signify a turning point: more awareness of the grave press freedom situation; seven northern countries pledging to improve safety for journalists covering conflicts; international bodies promising to combat impunity for those who target reporters; the UN standing behind moves to improve journalist safety; and news organisations providing professional safety training and modern protective equipment.

Read more about recent journalists' deaths here:
- CMFR on Lintuan (Philippines):
- INSI on Hosh (Somalia):
- RSF on al-Moussawi (Iraq):
- PROBIDAD on Gonzáles (Honduras):
Also see the following IFEX alerts for country or region-specific year-end analyses:
- CHINA: Over 180 foreign journalists harassed in 2007, says RSF
- PARAGUAY: One journalist killed, but struggle to democratise media continued in 2007, says SPP
- PERU: One journalist killed, over 100 press violations in 2007, shows IPYS report
- SOMALIA: Press situation deteriorated dramatically, says NUSOJ annual report
- SOUTHEAST ASIA: Press freedom and free expression decline in 2007, says SEAPA report
(Photo: An iconic image of 2007 - Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai tries to take pictures after being shot by soldiers who charged at protesters in Rangoon, Burma, on 28 September. Nagai later died of his wounds. Photo courtesy of Reuters)

(8 January 2008)

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