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Journalists face "particularly severe risks" in South Asia, where members of the media are regularly murdered and authorities fail to capture the killers, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says in their annual Impunity Index.

Attacks on reporters have increased in the past year in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and India, which make up nearly half of the 14-strong Impunity Index published last week.

The index, now in its second year, calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders from 1999 to 2008 as a percentage of a country's population. Countries with five or more unsolved cases where no convictions are obtained are included.

While Iraq, Sierra Leone and Somalia - countries "racked by armed conflict" - top the list, CPJ highlights deteriorating conditions in Sri Lanka, where government troops are battling Tamil Tiger insurgents, and Pakistan, where journalists have come under threat from militant groups.

"We're distressed to see justice worsen in places such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Our findings indicate that the failure to solve journalist murders perpetuates further violence against the press," said CPJ. "Countries can get off this list of shame only by committing themselves to seeking justice."

But most of the list encompasses peacetime democracies with functioning law enforcement, nations such as Russia, the Philippines, and India.

Brazil is the sole newcomer to the 2009 index. Although Brazilian authorities have succeeded in prosecuting some journalist murders, those efforts have not offset the nation's high rate of deadly violence against the press, says CPJ.

CPJ released its report in Manila to mark the fourth anniversary of the murder of murder of Marlene Garcia-Esperat, a Philippine columnist killed for reporting on corruption in the government's agriculture department. The masterminds, although identified, have not been convicted. (See IFEX Communiqué, " Philippines: SEAPA Mission Confirms Pervasive Culture of Impunity":

See CPJ's Impunity Index, "Getting Away with Murder 2009":

(1 April 2009)

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