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Supporters of Pakistan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement of Justice) fix candles next to portraits of slain journalists. - AP Photo.

ISLAMABAD: The outgoing year 2011 was worst for journalists working in South Asia as threat from both non-sate and state elements to their safety, especially in the conflict areas, kept taking its toll on them.

According to South Asian Free Media Association (Safma) report launched here on Friday, working condition in Pakistan for journalists is more risky against the backdrop of ongoing conflict in the vast north and south western regions of the country.

While militants target them with impunity, fingers are also raised at the role of security agencies in their kidnapping and killing.

The total number of journalists killed in South Asia was 17 out of which 12 were Pakistanis. In India three and in Afghanistan two deaths were recorded, the report said.

It was also informed in the report that the impunity index of the committee to protect journalists (CPJ) has ranked Pakistan as the 10th most dangerous country in the world for journalists where the chances of getting away with murders are extremely high. In 2010, the South Asia Media Monitor reported killings of 19 journalists and one media-worker in South Asia, most of them in the conflict-ridden regions. Pakistan was among the top in the list of the “most dangerous countries.”

The report revealed that eight killings had had a direct link to their work as journalists. Wali Khan Babar, Geo News TV; Nasrullah Afridi, PTV/Urdu daily Mashriq; Saleem Shahzad; Asia Times Online; Asfandyar Khan, Akhbar-e-Khyber; Shafiullah Khan, The News; Muneer Shakir working for Online News Network and television channel, Sabzbaat; Faisal Qureshi, editor for a political news website London Post; and Javed Naseer Rind, a senior sub-editor and columnist with the Urdu-language Daily Tawar; have become the victim of target killing, suicide bombing and the wrath of intelligence agencies.

It has not been ascertained whether llyas Nazar, a reporter with the Baloch-language magazine Darwanth; Abdost Rind, Daily Eagle; Rehmatullah Shaheen; and Zaman Ibrahim, crime reporter with vernacular Daily Extra News, were targeted due to their journalistic work, the report said.

The report said that journalists were in increased danger in the region with repression and violence directed at media workers.

Right to information and Internet activists reporting in blogs, on Facebook or via Twitter increasingly attracted the attention of authorities and of groups tending to violence.

The report said in the outgoing year, many incidents of violence and intimidation of journalists had been reported, involving police, Rangers and various other agencies which sent a message to the media that they better toe the line drawn by the extremists.

Media organisations were not spared from the anger and wrath of many non-state actors.

Offices of private TV channels, Multan Press Club and Karachi Press Dub were attacked and copies of national dailies were burnt, but no preventive steps have been taken to end this violence against media organizations, it was alleged in the report.

The journalists in the conflict areas were more vulnerable and exposed to the law-enforcement agencies, militant groups and other non-state actors. No proper steps were taken to provide security, insurance and risk coverage by the media houses.

A majority of journalists in the districts are under paid or not paid and allowed to use only ID cards of the channels they work for and have to arrange their own earnings.

The media houses remained indifferent towards the safety and security of journalists, according to the report.