( AP ) - American journalists covering Iraq say they face unprecedented dangers with many reporting that they've worked closely with Iraqi colleagues who have been killed or kidnapped, according to a survey released Wednesday.
The survey by the Washington-based media watchdog Project for Excellence in Journalism offered a grim picture of reporters trying to work under they describe as the constant threat of violence and intimidation in Iraq.
Most of the 111 survey participants, veteran war correspondents with experience in Afghanistan, Gaza and Lebanon, called the war in Iraq their most dangerous assignment ever.
Of the 29 American news organizations represented by the reporters, at least one local staff member in 17 of the organizations was killed or kidnapped within the past year, according to project director Tom Rosenstiel.
The majority of the respondents also said they rely heavily on the mainly Iraqi staffers, who are responsible for most of the street reporting outside of the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad.
In addition, eight in ten believe conditions have deteriorated for reporters in Iraq since their first posting there.
Although almost all of the journalists assigned to Iraq live in Baghdad, 87 percent of those surveyed consider at least half of the city too dangerous for Western journalists to travel in.
Rosenstiel said his organization "came away with a sense that it is an impossible job and an impossible story to tell."
"What I was struck by was how grim and how dangerous it is to cover this story, and the fact that local staff upon whom they rely so heavily are under such constant threat, staffers cannot even tell their families what they do or even carry a notebook," said Rosenstiel.
At least five employees of The Associated Press have died violently in Iraq since the war began.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism, previously affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, joined the Pew Research Center last year.