VIENNA, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The International Press Institute, saying a record number of journalists have already died in 2012, Friday urged governments to better protect them from peril.
At an IPI meeting in Vienna, panelists asked world governments to take responsibility for the safety of journalists as already 119 of them have been killed so far in 2012, the highest number since the IPI's Death Watch began record-keeping in 1999.
Anthony Mills, IPI deputy director and a former CNN correspondent, said despite consensus for action from both civil society and international bodies, "what we don't have yet is the successful translation of these important endeavors into a change in the chilling reality on the ground."
Frank La Rue, U.N. official for the protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said the security situation for journalists around the world, especially for those working in "undeclared conflict zones," has become "progressively worse."
He said "the protection and promotion of human rights is the responsibility of states and we cannot ignore that responsibility."
"Any attack against the media should be labeled an attack on democracy itself," another panelist said.
U.N. officials said journalists have died while covering not just conflicts but illegal activities.
In a message, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said of the journalists killed this year, 32 died in the Syrian conflict and 18 in Somalia. She said the majority of those killed were not war correspondents but local reporters covering illegal activities such as drug trafficking and illegal logging.
"We must break the vicious cycle that silences journalists, deprives society of important voices and frightens other citizens, preventing them from speaking out," Bokova said.