Reporters on the Job

Last Days of a Dictator: Staff writer Dan Murphy was in the high-security Baghdad courtroom in 2005 on the first day of the trial that ultimately led to Saddam Hussein's execution on Saturday. Though Dan's job has left him in the presence of some nasty characters, he notes that Mr. Hussein was one of the most ruthless dictators of the 20th century.

He had read about him, and seen him on TV, but as he watched Hussein from behind a glass barrier, Dan wondered what the Lion of Mesopotamia would be like in person. "He was sure of himself, dignified, and uncowed," says Dan, as he verbally jousted with the judge. "But there was nothing, at first, that suggested the qualities that saw him eliminate all domestic political opponents and seize absolute power."

A Dangerous Year: At least 81 journalists were killed in 2006 in 21 countries while doing their job or for expressing their opinion, the highest annual toll since 1994, says Reporters Without Borders. It says 32 media assistants (fixers, drivers, translators, technicians, security staff) were also killed in 2006 (five died in 2005). Iraq was the most dangerous country for the media for the fourth year running, with 64 journalists and media assistants killed. Since fighting began in 2003, 139 journalists have been killed there, more than twice the number in the 20-year Vietnam War. About 90 percent of the victims were Iraqis.

The second most dangerous country was Mexico, which moved ahead of Colombia as Latin America's deadliest place for the media. Nine journalists were killed in Mexico in 2006 because they were investigating drug trafficking or reporting on violent social unrest. US cameraman Brad Will was shot dead in late October in turbulent Oaxaca state, where strikes often degenerated into armed clashes, and other journalists were injured there.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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