In a report on Tuesday, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said the impact of war and conflict has cast a long shadow over journalism in 2003.
The report said at least 83 journalists and media staff were killed during the year – 13 more than in 2002.
“War, regional conflict, organised crime and government indifference are the greatest obstacles to justice for journalists and their safety,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary.
“We see journalists being targeted for their work in many parts of the world, but many governments simply don’t care about what these tragedies mean for democracy and free expression.”
“We see journalists being targeted for their work in many parts of the world, but many governments simply don’t care about what these tragedies mean for democracy and free expression”
The war in Iraq and continuing insurgencies in Colombia and the Philippines provided most casualties during the year.
The IFJ has called for independent investigations into seven of the 18 deaths in Iraq.
In particular, the IFJ said a US army attack on a Baghdad hotel which killed two cameramen has not been properly explained.
The organisation also called for changes in international law to ensure that targeting of journalists and negligence in protecting journalists are made war crimes.
Although Iraq stole the headlines in 2003, the IFJ said the killing of 10 journalists in the Philippines and Colombia was just as worrying.
It said journalists in both countries have been targeted for trying to expose political corruption, and in many cases the drugs mafia and crime gangs were to blame.
“In far too many instances the problem of impunity, and the failure of officials to properly investigate killings of media staff, remains a persistent obstacle to justice for journalists and media staff who are killed,” said White.