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FILE: Journalists protest in Karachi Pakistan in February.

In a new report, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says "impunity" in the cases of murdered journalists remains "firmly entrenched" in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, and 10 other countries across the world.

CPJ's 2019 Global Impunity Index, published on October 29, found that the 13 countries that make up "the list of the world’s worst impunity offenders" include a "mix of conflict-ridden regions and more stable countries."

The New York-based media freedom watchdog described these countries as places "where criminal groups, politicians, government officials, and other powerful actors resort to violence to silence critical and investigative reporting."

"Unchecked corruption, ineffective institutions, and lack of political will to pursue robust investigations are all factors behind impunity," it added.

Somalia is the worst country for the fifth year in a row in a ranking based on deaths as a percentage of each country's population -- 25 unsolved killings over the past 10 years in a country of 15 million people.

Syria was second and Iraq third on the list, followed by South Sudan, the Philippines, and Afghanistan, where there has been a total of 11 unresolved killings for a a population of 37.2 million.

Pakistan ranked eighth with 16 unsolved killings. Russia was 11th with six.

Other countries making up the list are Brazil, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and India.

The 13 countries accounted for 222 of the 318 deaths in the past 10 years, CPJ said, with many of the cases linked to war and civil unrest.

"In the past decade, armed militant groups such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and the Islamic State group have most often targeted journalists with complete impunity," CPJ said.

"However, criminal groups have become a major threat, killing large numbers of journalists and routinely escaping justice," the report said.

Steven Butler, the Asia coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists

Pakistan blacklisted and denied entry to the Asia coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the global press freedom group's executive director said on October 18.

Steven Butler was refused entry at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore despite having a valid visa and was returned to the United States.

Butler said he was told he was on "a stop list of the Interior Ministry."

Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director, called the expulsion of Steven Butler "baffling" and "a slap in the face" to those concerned about press freedom in Pakistan.

"Airport authorities in Lahore confiscated Butler's passport and forced him onto a flight to Doha, Qatar," Simon said in a statement.

The Pakistani government had no immediate comment on October 18.

"Pakistani authorities should give a full explanation of their decision to bar Butler from entering and correct this error," Simon said.

If the government is interested in demonstrating its commitment to a free press, it should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into this case," he added.

Butler was planning to attend the Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan. The event scheduled for this weekend is named for a renowned Pakistani human rights activist who died last year of a heart attack.

Butler had been a regular visitor to Pakistan, working with journalists' groups throughout the country.

"Pakistani authorities’ move to block Steven Butler from entering the country is baffling and is a slap in the face to those concerned about press freedom in the country," Simon said.

Pakistani journalists have been subjected to increasing censorship in the past year.

Websites have been shut down, including the Urdu website of the U.S. government-funded Voice of America, after it reported on an ethnic Pashtun tribal movement that's been critical of military operations in regions bordering Afghanistan.

RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal's bureau has also been shut down.

Leading newspapers, including the well-known English-language Dawn Newspaper, and their distributors have also come under pressure.

Journalists and media freedom groups blame the powerful Pakistani military, which they say are seeking to stifle criticism as well as any coverage of the Pashtun movement against the military's war on terrorism in the tribal regions.

The military denies the accusations.

With reporting by AP

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