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Increasing Number of Journalists Killed in 2001 - 2002-01-22

The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers reports a troubling rise in the number of journalists and media workers killed in 2001. While the numbers fluctuate, journalism is becoming an increasingly dangerous occupation.

The World Association of Newspapers said 60 reporters and other media staff were killed in 2001, compared to 53 for the year 2000. Ten died in Columbia, a result of the decades-long civil war. Eight others were killed in Afghanistan, and four in the Philippines.

Another Paris-based group, Reporters Without Borders, offered different findings for 2001. The group reported 31 journalists were killed last year, the same number as the year before.

The statistics differed, says Reporters director Robert Menard, because his organization only records the deaths of journalists, rather than media employees in general, and only killings clearly targeted against journalists.

Nonetheless, Mr. Menard says the climate of violence and repression against journalists is growing. Mr. Menard says these days there are more reporters killed, threatened, and badly treated than in previous years. He cites Bangladesh, Eritrea, and Iran as three countries where treatment of reporters has deteriorated rapidly. He says the number of journalists imprisoned in China and Burma has also increased.

But Mr. Menard finds some consolation behind these gloomy statistics. He says they also show that journalists are doing their job. In Africa, for example, few reporters were imprisoned 15 years ago. He says that is partly because there were few real journalists asking hard questions and getting into trouble as a result.

In Zimbabwe, according to Reporters Without Borders, 20 reporters were arrested last year and three foreign journalists were kicked out of the country for articles critical of the government.

Moreover, Mr. Menard says news organizations must also take preventative steps to reduce dangers confronting reporters. That includes not sending out inexperienced journalists to war zones like Afghanistan.