The Committee to Protect Journalists says 55 journalists were killed last year in direct connection with their work. This finding is highlighted in the group's just-released annual report, called Attacks on the Press in 2006. VOA's Stephanie Ho has more from Washington.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists' annual report says the 55 journalists were killed because they were doing their jobs. In addition, the organization is still investigating 27 other deaths to determine whether they were work related.

The CPJ report says the most dangerous country for reporters last year was Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed. The group points out that most of the media casualties it recorded in 2006 were Iraqis, and that for the first time, murder surpassed crossfire as the cause of death.

The number of deaths are about half what has been reported by other media freedom groups. CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon acknowledged the discrepancy.

"We take a very narrow approach because we use these cases for our advocacy, and we want to make sure that when we go into meetings with government officials, and we say a journalist was killed for his or her work, we're able to demonstrate that conclusively through our research," said Joel Simon.

Simon added that his group's report comes to similar conclusions as other groups, such as Reporters Without Borders. He cited Iraq and China as an example of where the two groups overlap.

"The places that we're concerned about, the number of journalists in jail in China, there might be some discrepancy there, but we both agree that it's the world's leading jailer of journalists," he said. "The number of journalists killed in Iraq - it's a very, very difficult place to carry out research, and sometimes we come to slightly different conclusions, but do we both agree that Iraq is the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist, an unprecedented risk, we do."

The report lists 31 cases of journalists jailed in China. More than half are Internet journalists, which the CPJ's Kristin Jones says is a worrying precedent.

"Asia has also become a crucial testing ground for the Internet," said Kristin Jones. "China's very sophisticated system of Internet control has become the envy of countries like Burma and Vietnam, which have also ramped up their efforts to control political content online."

Jones added that CPJ has been participating in efforts to encourage dialogue between human rights groups and the computer companies that sell China much of the equipment Beijing uses to control access to the Internet.