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    Journalist death toll reaches 76 in 2009

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    Seventy-six journalists were killed and 157 fled their countries to escape persecutions in 2009, according to figures released by Reporters Without Borders.

    Seventy-six journalists were killed and 157 fled their countries to escape persecutions in 2009, according to figures released by Reporters Without Borders.

    The death toll has risen by more than one fifth from 2008, when there were 60 journalist deaths registered, the organization said on Wednesday in its latest update.

    Wars and elections constituted the chief threat to journalists in 2009, the group said, noting that violence before and after elections was particularly prevalent in countries with poor democratic credentials.

    The year's death toll rose dramatically with the killing of 30 media workers in the November 23 election-related massacre in the Philippine province of Maguindanao.

    According to the organization, 33 media workers were kidnapped, 573 were arrested, and 1,456 were physically assaulted in the departing year. An unprecedented wave of arrests and convictions of journalists took place in Iran following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection in June.

    "The Iranian press photographers crossing the Turkish border to escape arrest or the Somali radio journalists fleeing to neighboring countries to avoid certain death had all reported essential news and information that some people would go to any lengths to suppress," the report said.

    Internet journalists and bloggers also faced persecutions in the past year. A total of 151 online reporters were arrested, while 61 bloggers were attacked and one died in prison.

    The organization said a total of 570 media outlets were censored in 2009, and online censorship has been observed in at least 60 countries.

    "As soon as the Internet or new media (social networking, mobile phones etc.) start to play a leading role in the spread of news and information, a serious clampdown follows," the report said.

    PARIS, December 31 (RIA Novosti)

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