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ASIA DEADLIER THAN MIDDLE EAST FOR MEDIA IN 2008, SAYS IPI

Asia replaced the Middle East as the deadliest region for journalists last year, with 26 reporters, photographers and editors losing their lives in retaliation for their work or in civil conflicts, according to the International Press Institute (IPI)'s annual World Press Freedom Review.

Though more journalists were killed in Iraq than in any other country in 2008 for the sixth year in a row, Pakistan became the second deadliest place for journalists, says IPI, pointing to its chaotic politics and conflict along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The annual report by IPI, which this year focuses on Asia, also shows that in many cases where journalists are murdered, the crimes are often never prosecuted.

"Impunity remains a contagion in the region, particularly in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, but the murderers of journalists are also escaping prosecution in leading democracies such as India," said IPI. "Those who want to stifle free expression and frighten journalists into silence and self-censorship are succeeding because of impunity."

Other patterns in Asia suggested an increase in challenges often associated with the Middle East, such as protecting religion (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia) and the monarchy (Thailand) from criticism, and government censorship of the Internet (China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia). Meanwhile, security forces in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other nations used national security laws to intimidate and terrorise journalists, says IPI.

This year's edition includes individual reports detailing press freedom developments in 30 Asian countries, as well as interviews and essays from local journalists.

It also contains overviews addressing press freedom violations in all regions of the globe. Worldwide, IPI records 66 journalists killed in 2008, down from 93 in 2007 and 100 in 2006. Journalists also died in high numbers in Mexico, Georgia and Russia.

IPI includes in its "Death Watch" journalists and media staff who were deliberately targeted because of their investigative reporting or simply because they were journalists. IPI also includes journalists who were caught in the crossfire while covering dangerous assignments.

A downloadable copy of the full report is available at http://www.freemedia.at/WPFR_2008.pdf

(11 February 2009)

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