NEW YORK — A media watchdog group said Monday that 64 journalists in 17 countries have died while covering the news in 2007 _ the deadliest year in more than a decade.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said in an annual report that Iraq led the list for the fifth year in a row, with 31 dead _ one fewer than a year ago. Somalia was second with seven dead in 2007, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka each recorded five deaths.
The global figure of 64 was an increase of eight over the previous year and two short of the record of 66 set in 1994, when strife ripped Algeria, Bosnia and Rwanda. The New York-based committee said it was still investigating 22 other cases from 2007 to determine whether they were "work-related."
Since the Vietnam War, murder has steadily replaced combat as the primary cause of media deaths _ seven in 10 in recent years, CPJ said.
This has reached its peak in Iraq, where most of the 124 reporters, photographers and editors, and the 49 other news employees killed since the U.S. invasion in 2003, were slain after being abducted.
"Working as a journalist in Iraq remains one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet," said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director. "Members of the press are being hunted down and murdered with alarming regularity."
Of the 31 killed in Iraq in 2007, 24 were murdered, the report said. All but one were Iraqi citizens, including nine working for international news organizations such as The Associated Press, Reuters, The Washington Post, ABC News and The New York Times.
"These journalists gave their lives so that all of us could be informed about what is happening in Iraq," Simon said.
He said the seven deaths in Somalia reflected an "increasingly deteriorating environment" for journalists.
Suicide bombers killed three of the five journalists slain in Pakistan, one of them during violence sparked by the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Three died in Sri Lanka when air force jets bombed the rebel Tigers' radio station.
Other journalism-related deaths or abductions occurred in the U.S., Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico and the Palestinian Territory, CPJ said.
Two familiar trouble spots recorded no deaths in 2007 _ Colombia, for the first time in 15 years, and the Philippines, for the first time in eight years.
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Committee to Protect Journalists: http://www.cpj.org