updated 1/22/2006 10:17:25 PM ET 2006-01-23T03:17:25

Relentless targeting of the press in Iraq and the loss of dozens of journalists in an Iranian plane crash pushed the number of media professionals killed around the world to a record 150 in 2005, an international media rights group said Monday.

Deliberate attacks, often by criminals, extremists or paramilitary groups, accounted for more than half the deaths in what the International Federation of Journalists secretary general, Aidan White, called “a year of unspeakable violence against media.”

The Brussels-based organization’s report said 2005 saw a rising trend of “targeted assassination of editorial staff” with 89 “killed in the line of duty, singled out for their professional work.”

Other journalists died in accidents or natural disasters at work, including the 48 Iranians killed in the Dec. 6 plane crash in Tehran.

The IFJ’s figures differ from those of other media organizations because they include support staff such as drivers and translators with journalists.

The report also includes media workers killed accidentally at work. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists listed 47 journalists killed in its 2005 report, while the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said 63 were killed last year.

The IFJ reported 129 media deaths in 2004, the highest total since it began keeping records in the 1980s. That figure was compiled before the Asian tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004 left at least 11 journalists dead and 78 missing.

The Middle East was the most dangerous place for journalists last year. Television journalist Abdul Hussein Khazal al-Basri was gunned down in Baghdad with his 3-year-old son on Feb. 9, beginning a string of deadly attacks. A total of 35 journalists were killed.

U.S. troops were involved in five of the deaths, the IFJ said, bringing the number of military-involved killings of journalists to 18 since the 2003 invasion. White said the figures strengthened his organization’s call for independent investigations.

Outside the Middle East, the Philippines was the most perilous place for journalists, with at least 10 gunned down.

Twelve journalists were killed in Latin America, a figure that White said highlighted “the curse of corruption, crime and narcotics.”

Before 2004, the deadliest year recorded by the organization was 1994, when 115 journalists were killed, including 48 slain during the genocide in Rwanda.

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