NEW YORK, (AP) – With murder the leading cause, at least 32 journalists have been killed in Iraq in 2006, the highest one-year toll ever in a single country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report Wednesday.
The Middle East nation, torn by war and bloody sectarian violence, was the world’s most dangerous for the news media for the fourth straight year, according to CPJ, a New York-based advocacy group.
The committee said its latest yearly count brings to 93 the total killed in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003, with another 37 drivers, messengers and other press “support staff” also slain.
Of the 32 reported media casualties to date this year in Iraq, 26 were murdered, the CPJ report said.
The most recent was Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah, 35, an Associated Press Television cameraman. He was shot dead by insurgents who saw him taping their firefight with police in the northern Iraq city of Mosul on Dec. 12. A police official said they shot Lutfallah five times and stole his equipment.
“Journalists clearly are being targeted and murdered for doing their work,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in Wednesday’s statement. “The surge in the death toll is chilling.”
In world conflicts before and including the Vietnam War, most journalist deaths were combat-related and murders extremely rare. That changed in the early 1970s, when 34 media members were killed or went missing in Cambodia. Most were murdered; many never were found.
In 2006, most of the 84 news media members killed worldwide were murdered, the committee said.
The group said it would issue a final report of journalist casualties for the year on Jan. 2. But its count of 32 in Iraq already exceeds the previous high of 24 each in Iraq in 2004 and Algeria in 1995.
Of the journalists slain in Iraq this year, all but two were Iraqis, and 26 were murdered by gunmen or by bomb explosions, according to CPJ. The group said four were kidnapped and killed, and 12 others had been “threatened” beforehand.