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Press Freedom Day Highlights Dangerous Conditions for Reporters


The United Nations and journalists around the globe are observing World Press Freedom Day Thursday by expressing concerns about dangerous working conditions for reporters in many countries. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, awarded this year's World Press Freedom Prize to Anna , who was murdered in Moscow last year.

The Russian journalist, a fierce critic of the war in Chechnya and of the Russian government, was shot and killed in her apartment building in Moscow.

U.S. Under-Secretary of State Karen Hughes says reporters are at greater risk than ever of being threatened, jailed or killed. "Journalists like Anna are on the front lines of human freedom. Yet while her story is perhaps the best known and most widely reported, she is unfortunately not alone. In every region of the world journalists are under siege," she said.

Reporters Without Borders says a record number, more than 110 journalists and media workers, were killed last year.

Freedom House, a Washington-based pro-democracy organization, says the outright murder of journalists, military coups and oppressive governments all led to a decline in global press freedom in 2006.

The organization's executive director, Jennifer Windsor, says such threats exist in many regions of the world. "Killing and physical harassment of reporters is particularly a problem in Latin America, where Mexico has actually replaced Columbia as one of the most dangerous environments for journalists, as well as in South and Southeast Asia, Russia and Iraq," he said.

Freedom House identifies five countries -- Burma, Cuba, Libya, Turkmenistan and North Korea -- as receiving the worst ratings for media freedom.

Another media group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, released a report focusing on nations where it says the atmosphere for a free press has significantly deteriorated.

"The idea for this project came from CPJ's researchers, who every day track violations of press freedom. What they noticed was the gradual erosion of media freedoms in countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Gambia. Such deterioration was not making international headlines, but local journalists were finding it harder and harder to work," said Robert Mahoney, the committee's deputy director.

President Bush marked World Press Freedom Day by paying tribute to journalists who he says courageously do their work at great risk.

Mr. Bush condemned the persecution journalists, including Internet reporters, face in China, Egypt, Tunisia and Vietnam, and the unsolved murders of journalists in Lebanon, Russia and Belarus.

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