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Asian Countries Top List as Most Dangerous for Journalists

The Philippines, China, and Bangladesh are among the most dangerous countries to work as a journalist. In reports released to mark International Press Freedom Day, media advocacy groups say scores of reporters have been murdered or imprisoned by oppressive governments, rebel groups and criminals in the past year, all in an effort to prevent them from reporting the news.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says that of the 190 journalists killed across the world since 2000, just a handful died when caught in crossfire or while on a dangerous assignment. The vast majority of 121 journalists were hunted down and murdered in retaliation for their reporting.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and another media advocacy group, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders released reports to coincide with International Press Freedom Day. And each report disturbing trends.

Next to Iraq, the world's most dangerous place to be a journalist is Asia, where 16 of the 53 reporters killed in 2004 were slain. Eight of those murders took place in the Philippines, giving it the dubious distinction as the region's most murderous nation for reporters.

The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders say those targeting journalists include corrupt officials, rebel organizations, and criminal syndicates, who are often at risk of being exposed by the press.

When murder is not the issue, oppression often is. Reporters Without Borders says of the 107 journalists currently imprisoned around the world, 27 are held in China - where authorities see a free press as threatening to stability.

The press organizations say that attitude has been shared for years by the governments of North Korea and Burma, and has more recently developed in Nepal - where authorities recently cracked down on press freedoms.

Earlier this year, Nepal's King Gyanendra dissolved the government, and arrested scores of political rivals, activists, and journalists - many of whom remain in jail.

"These are a group of people who are perhaps particularly well-informed, who have traveled around the country, who have close links with many political workers and also with the state administration," said Rhoderic Chalmers, an analyst with the South Asia office of the International Crisis Group. "[They] re in a better position than many other professional groups to use that information and their experience to cause trouble and to make a noise about the situation."

In Asia, Bangladesh ranks as the second most dangerous place to report the news, with five journalists murdered since 2000.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 14 journalists have been killed so far in 2005.

Among them, the editor of Tamil-Net, a prominent Sri Lankan Web page that reports on the situation facing the country's ethnic-Tamil minority.

In most cases, the media watchdogs say, the journalists are murdered with impunity, because governments fail to investigate crimes against the press.