Journalist deaths rise to 70 in 2013: Watchdog

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The number of journalists killed worldwide this year has risen to 70, including eight who lost their lives in the unusually deadly month of December, a United States-based watchdog said on Monday.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) updated its toll less than two weeks after reporting that 52 journalists had died on the job.

Syria was the deadliest assignment, resulting in 28 deaths this year, CPJ said. Ten journalists were killed in Iraq, including five in December alone.

The updated figures include the deadly December bombing of an Iraqi TV station, and additional killings in Iraq, Syria and India.

The toll is based on what CPJ calls "a rigorous research process" to verify whether journalists were killed as a direct result of their work.

The toll as it stands now is down slightly from 74 in 2012. But CPJ is still investigating the 2013 deaths of 25 more journalists to establish whether they were work-related.

More than a third of the journalists were killed in combat or crossfire, while 20 per cent died during some other type of dangerous assignment.

At least 63 journalists have perished covering the civil war in Syria since it broke out in 2011.

"Yet the huge number of deaths in Syria does not tell the complete story of the danger to journalists there," CPJ's Elana Beiser said in a blog post.

"The country saw an unprecedented number of kidnappings in 2013; about 60 journalists were abducted at least briefly during the year, according to CPJ research. Late in 2013, at least 30 were still missing. Most were believed held by rebel groups. However, at least one journalist died in government custody during the year."

The third deadliest country for journalists in 2013 was Egypt with six deaths, followed by Pakistan with five, Somalia with four, India, the Philippines and Brazil with three each and Russia and Mali with two each.

Turkey, Bangladesh, Colombia and Libya each saw one journalist death, CPJ said.

Paris-based media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said earlier this month that 71 journalists lost their lives in 2013.