PARIS (Reuters)–Thirty-one journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2001 and there was a sharp rise in curbs on reporting worldwide–a media watchdog said on Wednesday.
The number of journalists jailed or attacked for their work rose dramatically last year–the Paris-based Reporters sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) said in its annual assessment of press freedom.
The number killed was almost the same as in 2000 when the death toll was 32–it said.
But arrests soared by almost 50 percent to 489 while threats and physical attacks on reporters jumped around 40 percent to 716.
"More and more journalists are in jail across the world," the group said in a statement. "There are currently 110 behind bars. Whereas this number had steadily decreased since 1995–it suddenly started rising again in 2001."
The situation sharply deteriorated in states including Bangladesh–Eritrea–Haiti–Nepal and Zimbabwe. Few countries recorded progress in granting the media greater freedom–Reporters Without Borders said.
"Every day–a new media outlet is censored somewhere in the world and close to a third of the global population lives in a country where there is no freedom of the press," it added.
Asia was the most dangerous place for reporters–with 14 deaths recorded last year. This included eight correspondents killed covering the US military campaign in Afghanistan.
Reuters journalists Harry Burton–an Australian television cameraman–and Azizullah Haidari–an Afghan-born photographer–both 33–were among a group of journalists murdered by gunmen in an ambush near Kabul in November.
One journalist and eight media technicians lost their lives in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. Another US journalist died from anthrax in Florida after receiving a letter laced with the bacteria.
Journalists were assassinated for what they wrote in Haiti–Colombia–Northern Ireland–Ukraine–Spain and Yugoslavia. No reporters were killed in Africa or the Middle East last year.