ISLAMABAD – Pakistan was the deadliest country for journalists in 2010, with at least eight media workers killed in the line of duty, a press advocacy group said Wednesday.
In its year-end report, the Committee to Protect Journalists said 42 media workers were killed worldwide in 2010, down from the record 72 who were killed in 2009.
The toll "is still unacceptably high and reflective of the pervasive violence journalists confront around the world," said Joel Simon, the group's executive director.
While murder was still the leading cause of death, a larger proportion of journalists were killed in suicide attacks and crossfire while on assignment in places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Thailand than in past years, the group said.
Six of the journalists in Pakistan were killed in suicide attacks, while another 20 were wounded.
Simon called the deaths of journalists in Pakistan "a symptom of the pervasive violence that grips the country."
"For many years journalists in Pakistan have been murdered by militants and abducted by the government. But with the rise in suicide attacks, the greatest risk is simply covering the news," he said.
Journalists were killed in 20 countries in 2010. After Pakistan, the next deadliest places were Iraq, with four deaths, followed by Honduras and Mexico with three each.
Last year's record number of journalist deaths was so high because of the massacre in the Philippines that saw more than two dozen journalists and their staff gunned down.
Simon said the failure of governments to investigate press deaths contributed to a "climate of impunity that ultimately fuels further violence."
Some 90 percent of journalist murders go unsolved, the report said.
The group said it was still investigating 28 other press deaths in 2010 to determine whether they were work-related. Seven of the deaths under investigation were in Mexico, where there was "raging" anti-press violence, according to the report.
At least five journalists were reported missing this year, including three in Mexico, it said.
Nearly 90 percent of the journalists killed in 2010 were local reporters. Five international reporters were killed this year, two of them shot dead in Thailand during clashes between anti-government protesters and the military.
In Iraq, the group said four journalists were killed. That compares to the group's tally of more than 20 journalists killed in the country each year from 2004-2007.
Pervez Shaukat, president of the Pakistan Union of Journalists, said his group's count showed 12 journalists had been killed this year in his country.
He said in the current climate of violence in Pakistan, members of the media shouldn't expect government help. "We don't expect the government to protect us as the present day rulers themselves do not feel safe," he said.
Shaukat called on media organizations themselves to do more to protect their employees.
The list from the Committee to Protect Journalists does not include journalists who died from illness or were killed in accidents that were not related to hostile action.