Two international monitors of press freedoms have issued their annual surveys, showing that 2005 was a deadly year for journalists.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says murder was the leading cause of work-related deaths among journalists in the year that just ended. Of the 47 deaths the CPJ documents in its 2005 survey, 37 (79 percent) were killed either to silence their criticism or to punish them for their work.
Another press freedom group, the French-based Reporters Without Borders, places the 2005 figure even higher in its annual survey, saying 63 journalists were killed.
A total of 22 journalists died in Iraq, the most dangerous place for working journalists in 2005. Ann Cooper, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, says the battlefield was not the biggest danger in Iraq.
"The danger is something different than what people might guess," she said. "The danger is that insurgents are actually deliberately targeting Iraqi journalists, because they are journalists, because they are helping in many cases western media report on the conflict there or they are working for local Iraqi media. Simply doing your job has become incredibly deadly in Iraq."
CPJ says 60 journalists have died in Iraq in the line of duty since the conflict began in March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for journalists in the group's 24-year history.
Four journalists were killed in the Philippines, making it the second most lethal nation for journalists in 2005. Lebanon, Russia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka follow with two deaths each.
This year, the Committee to Protect Journalists documented a long-term trend, showing that those who murder journalists are rarely brought to justice.
"That has a terrible effect because in a place like the Philippines or like Russia, where the murderers go unpunished, the cycle of violence continues against journalists," she added. "That is where we hold governments responsible. They may not be responsible directly for the murders but they are responsible for law and order in their countries, they are responsible for seeing justice done and if they are not bringing to justice the warlords or criminals who are killing the journalists, they are stifling the media."
According to the survey by Reporters Without Borders, journalists were increasingly pressured while performing their work in 2005. The group says more than 800 were arrested worldwide, over 1,300 were physically attacked or threatened and 126 were being detained in jails in 23 nations. The CPJ report found China the world's biggest jailer of journalists for the seventh consecutive year, followed by Cuba, Eritrea and Ethiopia. The United States was also criticized for its record in 2005 for holding journalists in detention centers in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.