A total of 37 journalists were killed in 2001, 13 more than over the previous year, the New York-based CPJ said.
The increase was mainly due to the war in Afghanistan, where eight journalists were killed in the line of duty covering the U.S.-led military campaign and a ninth died of wounds suffered there two years earlier. It also was the highest death toll for a single country since 1999, when 10 journalists were killed in Sierra Leone.
The CPJ noted, however, that most of those killed in 2001 were not covering combat. They were murdered in reprisal for their reporting on official corruption and crime in countries such as Bangladesh, China, Thailand, and Yugoslavia, the CPJ said.
"Journalists covering the war in Afghanistan showed extraordinary courage, but we should also remember that journalists around the world who uncovered corrupt, illegal acts, and graft at high levels of power were murdered with impunity," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.
She added: "Whether the perpetrators are paramilitary groups in Colombia or corrupt officials in Thailand, the message is clear: journalists who report on illegal activities will receive a death sentence."
For the first time since CPJ began keeping detailed records, it said a journalist was killed in China. Two were killed in Thailand and one in Costa Rica. Meanwhile, no journalists were killed in Africa, where 18 were killed in the previous two years.
In addition to the 37 cases, CPJ is investigating the deaths of another 19 journalists.
The CPJ report comes one day after the Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said that 489 journalists were arrested in 2001, up nearly 50 percent from a year ago.
As of New Year's Day, there were 110 journalists still being held in prisons around the world, with Iran, Myanmar, China, Eritrea and Nepal holding the largest numbers, the report said.
The Reporters Without Borders group listed 31 journalists killed in 2001, which was one less than a year earlier. Another group, the Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists, said in a report issued Dec. 17 that as many as 100 news media staff were killed around the world in 2001.
CPJ spokeswoman Abi Wright explained that the groups have different criteria for defining "journalists" and also for explaining the circumstances of their deaths.
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