A report by the independent Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says the war in Iraq has been a deadly one for journalists, and in recent years local reporters are bearing the brunt of the violence. Correspondent Barbara Schoetzau filed this story from VOA's New York Bureau.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says 134 media workers have been killed in the line of duty since the March 20, 2003 invasion. The number includes 97 journalists and 37 media support staffers. A total of 24 reporters were killed in 2004, followed by 23 deaths the next year. In 2006, 32 journalists were killed in Iraq.
The CPJ's director, Joel Simon, says that is the highest number of journalists killed in one year in the New York-based group's 25-year history.
"We have been around for 25 years and this is the most deadly year for journalists that we have ever documented in a single country," he said. "Now we were not around during Vietnam or World War II, but if you look at the numbers compiled by other groups, I think we can affirm that this is probably the most deadly modern war for journalists."
According to the committee, 71 of the 97 journalists who have died in Iraq were killed by what the group is calling insurgent action: crossfire, suicide bombings and murders. Another 14 journalists have died in U.S. fire. Most of those involved crossfire incidents, but the Committee to Protect Journalists is seeking complete investigations into each of the incidents.
Covering conflict is a dangerous job and reporters know this. Simon says it has become especially dangerous for local reporters in Iraq.
"Initially, during the invasion period, most of the journalists who were killed were killed in crossfire, killed while covering combat, to a certain extent killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time," he added. "That is no longer the case and it has not been the case for some time. Last year 32 journalists were killed in Iraq. Thirty of them were Iraqis and most of those were murdered. They were not killed on some battlefield. They were killed in the front door of their homes or offices. They were targeted and that is what we are seeing generally over the last couple of years."
As the number of foreign reporters in the country has declined, more Iraqi reporters are being hired by Western media outlets. At the same time, the Iraqi media have grown dramatically, creating more jobs for local reporters, and increasing their vulnerability.
"These local journalists work for both the Iraqi media, which has grown dramatically since the fall of Saddam Hussein, or they work for Western media," he explained. "To a certain extent they are the eyes and ears of the world. They are the ones who can get out on the street and more easily do street reporting and describe what is happening, what people are staying, but they are also being targeted for murder and they are extraordinarily vulnerable."
Most of the journalists have been killed in Baghdad, but the Committee to Protect Journalists says reporters are threatened in many parts of the country. A total of 15 have been killed in Nineveh province where Mosul is located and another six have died in Anbar province.