Hundred journalists, media workers killed in first half of 2007

This year can become the deadliest one for the news media – one hundred journalists and media workers were killed in the first six months of 2007.

The 100-mark was reached Tuesday in Iraq - the most dangerous country for the news media in modern times - with the killing Tuesday of Hamed Sarha, a 30-year veteran of the Iraqi national news agency who was shot by unidentified gunmen, a statement said.

According to statistics compiled by the Brussels-based group, 83 journalists and 17 other media professionals died covering news stories between Jan. 1 and June 26. This compares with 68 deaths at the same time last year.

INSI - a coalition of media organizations, media freedom groups, unions and humanitarian campaigners dedicated to the safety of journalists and media staff - said 2006 was the worst year on record with a total of 168 murders and other work-related deaths among journalists and media professionals.

"This is a shocking development," INSI director Rodney Pinder said. "We have never known such a high death toll halfway through a year, and we fear for what might be to come."

According to the statistics, 72 of the casualties worldwide appear to have been murdered.

In Iraq, a total of 22 journalists and support staff were murdered in the first six months of this year, while 14 others died in other conflict-related incidents, the statement said.

"Democracy has even less chance of taking hold in Iraq while journalists are being slaughtered like this," Pinder said.

After Iraq, the countries where most journalists were murdered in the first half of this year were Afghanistan (5), Haiti and Philippines, each with four dead, Somalia, Palestine and India (3) and Sri Lanka, Mexico and Brazil (2).

The dead include some prominent cases such as Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian journalist and advocate of minority rights murdered in Istanbul, and Edward Chikombo, a cameraman who had filmed the injuries of Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition activists at the hands of the Zimbabwe police.

Also, Ajmal Naqshbandi, a translator for Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo, was beheaded by the Taliban after the Italian was released unharmed.