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Group calls for journalists' protection

UNITED NATIONS

Dozens of journalists were killed while doing their jobs last year, a disturbing trend that a worldwide watchdog group said persists partly because international institutions, like the United Nations, and governments are inconsistent in protecting press freedoms.

The Committee to Protect Journalists chided the UN, and other governments and world organizations for not speaking out enough to condemn attacks on journalists as the nonprofit organization released a report documenting as many as 44 journalists killed and 145 imprisoned last year for their work worldwide.

In 2009, 72 journalists were killed and 135 were put in jails.

"The recent unprecedented repression and persecution of journalists in Egypt, for example, provides an important opportunity for global and regional institutions to speak and act forcefully in defense of the press," said Joel Simon, executive director of CPJ.

Tuesday, CBS News reported that chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted Friday while covering the celebration in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The group visited the United Nations to release its annual report, Attacks on the Press in 2010, which features analysis of the impact of online journalism - half of the journalists imprisoned worldwide filed their work online exclusively - and the role of social media.

The report called the use of Twitter and Faceboook a "game-changer" that "blurs the lines between official and unofficial media."

Online surveillance of writers by governments and their removal of websites they don't like are "worrying," said Paul Steiger, president and editor of ProPublica, a New York-based nonprofit investigative reporting group.

"The often-invisible, sophisticated attacks constitute a new front in the fight for press freedom," he said. "We all need to pay close attention to Internet censorship."

The group found international organizations - including the Organization of American States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the African Union and others - slow to act in defense of journalists.

"Original critical reporting ensures accountability essential to free informed societies," said Steiger. "It's the duty of international organizations to ensure this right is implemented."

The worst offender was Pakistan, with eight deaths, followed by Iraq, with five. Indonesia, Honduras and Mexico each had three, the report said. Simon said researchers had noticed a new trend of greater censorship in Latin America.

Mohammed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said conditions for journalists in Iraq had drastically improved since U.S.-led combat operations declined there. In 2004 and 2005, nearly three dozen journalists were killed in Iraq, he said.

The report noted that Cuba had improved over the last year also, especially since the country recently released several journalists who had been detained.

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