The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) denounced Wednesday a total of 13 countries - many of them democracies like Mexico and India - for failing to resolve murders of journalists, the dpa reported.
CPJ said Iraq was on top of the Impunity Index published for the first time by the New York-based group that works to uphold freedom of the press and freedom of expression. A total of 79 cases of journalists killed since the US invasion in 2003 have remained unsolved.
The Philippines came second, with 24 unsolved killings, followed by Colombia with 20 and Russia with 14.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a prepared message for the annual World Press Freedom Day, which falls on May 3 each year, that journalists must be allowed to work unhindered by by politics or technology.
"Attacks on freedom of the press are attacks against international law, against humanity, against freedom itself - against everything the UN stands for," Ban said. "I am therefore all the more alarmed at the way the journalists are increasingly being targeted around the world, and dismayed when such crimes are not thoroughly investigated and prosecuted."
He urges "all societies to spare no efforts in bringing to justice the perpetrators of attacks on journalists."
Ban reiterated support for the 60-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which supported each individual's right to hold opinions without interference and receive and impart information and ideas "through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Apart from Iraq, South Asia is particularly dangerous for working journalists, CPJ said. In addition to India, another five South Asian countries are on the list: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The other countries singled out by CPJ are Sierra Leone and Somalia.
Each of the 13 countries on the list has more than five unsolved murder cases dating from 1997 to 2007.
CPJ's director Joel Simon said at a press conference at UN headquarters that some democracies, including Colombia, India, Russia and the Philippines, are among the "worst nations" in the world at prosecuting journalists' killers.
Governments in the Impunity Index have consistently failed to solve journalists' murders because of a lack of political will, corrupt justice or failure to respect press freedom, CPJ said.
"Most countries on the Impunity Index are democratic, are not at war, and have a functioning law enforcement institutions," CPJ said. "Yet journalists are regularly targeted for murder and no one is held accountable."
The Philippines has been able to convict in only two cases of murder while 24 other murders have remained unsolved since 2000. CPJ said the country has a "free and vibrant press," but journalists who covered corruption, crime and politics in that country have been repeatedly targeted with violence.
"Broadcast commentators and reporters in provincial regions are especially vulnerable," CPJ said of the Philippines. "Politicians and police have been implicated in a number of slayings, but corruption in the local court system has stymied efforts to prosecute."
CPJ said Colombia has 20 unsolved cases, Afghanistan seven cases, Nepal five cases, Pakistan eight cases and India five cases.