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Iraq, Mexico, Deadliest Countries for Journalists in 2006

The group says 81 journalists were killed around the world in 2006 - the most in more than a decade. As VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington, the figure comes from the group's annual report.

Reporters Without Borders' Vincent Brossel says 81 reporters were killed in 2006, the highest toll since 1994.

"So, it means that there is a real danger now for many journalists, especially in Iraq, especially in Mexico, especially in the Philippines, to cover stories and report about the daily life of the people," said Vincent Brossel.

Iraq topped the list for the fourth year in a row, with 64 journalists and media assistants killed there in 2006.

Brossel says the second most dangerous country for media was Mexico, where nine journalists were killed covering stories about drug trafficking or social violence. Meanwhile, the Philippines was third on the list, with six journalists killed.

Brossel said the one story this year he thinks did not get enough attention is the shooting death of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Brossel says the international community has been slow to criticize Mr. Putin, whom he accused of not doing enough to punish the killers.

"I mean, she was killed because the killers feel that they will have lots of chances to enjoy impunity," he said. "And because 21 other journalists have been killed in Russia since Mr. Putin came to power, and nobody cared to put the culprits in jail. So, we were very shocked by the killing of Ms. Anna Politkovskaya, but it is also because we have been a little bit coward and shy to denounce the crimes of Mr. Putin."

Another area the report covers is the relatively new issue of Internet censorship. Brossel says his group is monitoring 30 cases of bloggers arrested in 2006, which he says is many more than in the past. He says the worst countries for monitoring and controlling the Internet include China, Syria, Iran and Cuba.

As for the coming year, he said, he hopes the recent death of Turkmenistan's leader and the withdrawal of an Islamic militia movement from the capital of Somalia will lead to improvements in media freedom in those two countries.