An international organization defending the rights of journalists says 289 members of that profession have been killed in Russia since 1993.

Officials of the International Federation of Journalists spoke as 500 members of the group opened a week-long congress in Moscow.

The Federation's Secretary General Aidan White identified the lack of political will by governments to protect journalists and freedom of speech as the most important factor in the deaths. He said official corruption and incompetence are another reason so few killers are prosecuted.

The top official monitoring freedom of the media for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Miklos Haraszti, called government tolerance of intimidation and killing of journalists the only thing worse than the murders.

Organization members paid tribute to the victims, including Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya shot and killed outside her apartment last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.