A total of 132 journalists and support staff were killed or died while working last year, the International News Safety Institute, INSI, said.
Just three international reporters were among those deliberately targeted, the dead being overwhelmingly local journalists covering dangerous stories like high-level crime and corruption for national news media.
The Brussels-based INSI, which monitors statistics from around the world, said 98 of the dead were murdered because of their reporting activities.
“Journalists continue to die because they dare to shine a light on the darkest corners of societies. This is the shocking price we pay for our news,” INSI Director Rodney Pinder said in a statement released in Geneva with the body’s annual figures.
“This unacceptable situation will persist as long as the killers of journalists walk free,” he added, saying few of them had been brought to justice.
The 2009 death total, swollen by the 31 reporters INSI said were killed in a politically motivated massacre of 57 people in southern Philippines in November, was 22 up on the group’s figure for 2008.
But it was well below the worst recent years. In 2007, a record 172 journalists died and 168 were killed in 2006, when media deaths in Iraq were high following the 2003 US-led invasion and amid sectarian fighting.
The Philippines, already well up on the death list in 2008, had a total of 37 last year. Mexico was next with 11 killed, followed by Somalia and Russia with nine each.
INSI said Iraq provided the one encouraging statistic for 2009 with total deaths at five – two targeted and three in crossfire – by far the lowest since the invasion.
“For five years after 2003, it was the most dangerous country in the world for media, but journalists are now benefiting from a general reduction in violence there,” said Pinder.
The INSI, which runs safety courses for journalists around the globe and is supported by many major news organisations and professional unions, includes accidents while reporting as well as killings in its annual totals.
Pinder said that since 2006 when the UN Security Council passed a landmark resolution demanding greater safety for journalists in conflict and calling for an end to impunity for their killers, some 400 had died while covering stories.