The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists says Iraq is the deadliest conflict to cover in 24 years. More than 100 reporters have been killed in the past two years - making it the most dangerous period in a decade. The CPJ briefed reporters in Bangkok on its annual survey, which includes concerns about America's moral authority being damaged amid signs of cases of erosion of media freedoms.
The Committee to Protect Journalists annual report released in Bangkok Tuesday detailed hundreds of cases of deaths, media repression, intimidation of and self-censorship among reporters in more than 50 countries.
The CPJ's Asia spokesman, Shawn Cripsin, says it has been a dangerous time for reporters.
"Over the past two years more than 100 journalists have been killed while doing their work worldwide - the deadliest period for the press in a decade," said Cripsin. "Between 2003 and 2005, 60 journalists have been killed in Iraq - making it the deadliest conflict since our organization was established in 1981."
The report found self-censorship was widespread in Mexico, Columbia, and Brazil, where institutions are weak and crime and corruption a problem.
The CPJ says new trouble spots emerged in Africa - namely Zimbabwe, where the government muzzled the media during recent elections; and Ethiopia's crackdown on the independent press following violent anti-government protests.
In 2005, 125 journalists were jailed in 24 countries for doing their jobs. China topped the list with 32 reporters behind bars, followed by 24 in Cuba, 15 in Eritrea and 13 in Ethiopia. The United States tied for sixth place along with Burma - with each having put five journalists in jail.
The CPJ 's Crispin says the United States' reputation as a protector and global advocate of press freedom has been diminished by measures aimed at fighting global terrorism.
"Often in pursuit of its war on terror the U.S. government has tempered and often abandoned its message on press freedom when strategic interests were at stake our research has uncovered," he said.
In 2005 governments in Cameroon, Egypt, Venezuela and Nepal, all publicly justified repressive measures against their press corps by citing the example of the United States.
"The unfortunate upshot is that when the United States harasses and imprisons journalists, it provides cover for other repressive regimes around the world to do the same," continued Cripsin. "And increasingly that appears to be what is happening."
In a preface to the report, CPJ chairman and Wall Street Journal managing editor, Paul Steiger, points to disturbing U.S. trends. He cites the American military obstructing probes into the deaths and detentions of journalists in Iraq and the case of a New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, who was jailed for 85 days for refusing to reveal a confidential source in a high profile government investigation. He says only extreme circumstances - such as imminent threats to innocent people - could justify trying to compel a reporter to reveal sources.
On a positive note, the CPJ says the Philippines has improved its status as the world's most murderous country for journalists. The organization notes that the government is finally speaking out against killing reporters and is making arrests in a number of murder cases.