The deadliest year for journalists in Iraq

With murders on the rise, who will be left to tell the story?

Published December 20, 2006 10:14PM (EST)

Thirty-two journalists lost their lives in Iraq in 2006, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That's the largest number of members of the media killed in a single country since the organization started keeping track 25 years ago. Among the casualties this year were Atwar Bahjat, one of the best-known TV reporters in the Arab world. Thirty of the 32 journalists killed were Iraqis, like Bahjat.

Since the U.S.-led invasion, the death toll in Iraq for journalists is now up to 92. An additional 37 people who worked with the media, such as interpreters, drivers, fixers and office workers, have also been killed. Those numbers may not sound that high, considering the overall bloodshed in the country, but this year, the overwhelming majority of the journalists who died there were murdered. Only four of the 32 killed in Iraq in 2006 died as a result of crossfire or acts of war, the CPJ found. The other 28 were murdered, and half were threatened beforehand. That's a big change from the first two years of the war, when most who were killed died trying to get the story, not because they'd been deliberately targeted.

"The deaths in Iraq this year reflect the utter deterioration in reporters' traditional status as neutral observers in wartime," CPJ executive director Joel Simon said in a statement. "When this conflict began more than three and half years ago, most journalists died in combat-related incidents. Now, insurgents routinely target journalists for perceived affiliations -- political, sectarian, or Western.

"This is an extraordinarily alarming trend because along with the terrible loss of life, it is limiting news reporting in Iraq -- and, in turn, our own understanding of a vital story."

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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