A total of 110 journalists lost their lives in 2009, making it the deadliest year in a decade for the profession, a media watchdog said Thursday.

Asia, where 55 journalists died, was the most lethal region of the world, followed by Latin America where 28 were killed, the International Press Institute said in its annual World Press Freedom Review.

Fourteen journalists perished in Africa last year.

The Middle East saw six deaths, four of them in Iraq. In 2008, 14 journalists were killed in Iraq.

Seven journalists were killed in Europe in 2008 — including five in Russia, one in Turkey and one in Azerbaijan.

"When it comes to the deliberate murder of journalists because of their work we are still mired in an age of barbarity," wrote Anthony Mills, the review's managing editor.

The Vienna-based institute's so-called Death Watch includes journalists who were killed on the job or targeted because of what they did for a living.

The Asian figures — 55 in 2009, up from 25 in 2008 — were driven skywards by the massacre of 32 journalists in the Philippines in November, the Vienna-based IPI said. In all 38 journalists lost their lives in that country last year.

Elsewhere in Asia, eight journalists were killed in Pakistan where a military offensive has sparked an upsurge in violence. Three journalists died in Afghanistan — a reporter for a Canadian newspaper and two Afghan journalists. The number in 2008 was two.

"In some cases, the journalists' killings were a clear consequence of the conflict; in others, the motive remained unknown due to a lack of thorough police investigations," the review said.

Over the past decade, 735 journalists have been killed worldwide, according to IPI.