PARIS (Reuters) - At least 63 journalists were killed around the world in 2005 -- the highest toll in more than a decade -- with Iraq again the deadliest country, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Wednesday.
In its annual report, RSF said 24 journalists were killed in Iraq in 2005. The overall world toll was the highest since 1995 and up from 53 in 2004.
"For the third year running, Iraq was the world's most dangerous country for the media," the Paris-based group said.
"Terrorist strikes and Iraqi guerrilla attacks were the main cause but the U.S. army killed three of them."
The watchdog said 76 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the start of the fighting, more than in the 1955-75 Vietnam War.
Five people working for Reuters in Iraq have been killed since the start of the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Four of them were killed by U.S. forces, and one was killed in a car accident.
A separate survey by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists released on Tuesday found that 47 journalists were killed last year worldwide, including 22 in Iraq. The watchdog said that was a decrease from 57 deaths in 2004.
Different organisations sometimes have different figures for media deaths, partly due to differing criteria on who should be classed as a journalist.
PHILIPPINES HAS SECOND-WORST TOLL
The RSF report said that after Iraq, the Philippines had the next highest toll in 2005 with seven journalists killed last year.
"Their enemies were no longer armed groups but politicians, businessmen and drug-traffickers ready to silence journalists who exposed their crimes," RSF said.
Lebanon was rocked by the killings of two leading journalists, Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni. A third reporter, May Chidiac, survived a bomb attack on her car, the report noted.
Violence against journalists also increased in Africa, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Somalia. Also, an investigation into the death of a Gambian journalist was obstructed by the authorities, RSF said.
Censorship against journalists has seen a sharp rise in the last year, the report said. More than half of the 1,006 censorship cases reported were in Nepal, where a state of emergency was declared in February when King Gyanendra sacked the government and took power.
"This has included a ban on FM radio stations, broadcasting news, blocking of websites, seizure of equipment and politically inspired distribution of government advertising," RSF said.
In China, the BBC, Sound of Hope and Radio Free Asia were among the radio stations jammed by the government.
"Media and website editors and publishers get an almost daily list from the government's propaganda department of topics to avoid," the report said.
China topped the list for the number of journalists in prison and was among 15 countries with the toughest Internet censorship, RSF said. Tunisia and Iran were also singled out for strict internet surveillance.