By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) - Nearly 500 journalists have died from COVID-19 in 56 countries since March 1, the Geneva-based international media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) said Tuesday, noting the number is likely to be much higher.
During November, at least 47 media workers succumbed to the novel coronavirus, compared to 22 known deaths in October.
"Unfortunately, the pandemic is claiming more and more victims in the media. It's a huge loss. In countries like India, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, the number of victims among journalists is on the rise," said PEC General Secretary Blaise Lempen.
PEC said the death toll is likely higher, as the causes of journalists' deaths are sometimes not specified or even announced.
Last month on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, PEC backed a call by UN special rapporteurs for an accountability mechanism when they noted that the world faces an "entirely new challenge" with COVID-19.
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, noted the impact of the pandemic.
"As journalists seek to shine the light on responses to COVID-19, they are facing increased attacks. Protecting journalists is protecting people's right to know. Governments and the UN must act urgently to end impunity for crimes against journalists," they said in a statement.
PEC said by region, of the 489 journalists who have died from the virus since March 1, Latin America leads with more than half of the victims, or 276 deaths.
Asia follows with 125 dead, Europe with 38, North America with 26 and Africa with 24.
Peru has the heaviest death toll, where 93 media workers have died from the coronavirus since March, according to the Peruvian National Association of Journalists. India is now the second-worst affected country with 51 deaths, said PEC.
Brazil took third place with 43 victims, followed by Ecuador with 41 dead, Bangladesh with 39 and Mexico with 33.
The US is in seventh place with 25 victims, followed by Pakistan with 12, Panama with 11 and Bolivia with 9.
In the UK, the most affected European country, 10 have died since March.
It is followed by Nigeria with 8, Afghanistan with 7, Dominican Republic with 7, Honduras with 7, Argentina with 6, Nicaragua with 6, Venezuela with 6, Colombia with 5, France with 5, Russia with 5, Spain with 5 and Italy with 4.
Three journalists died from COVID-19 in each of Cameroon, Egypt, Guatemala, Iran, Nepal and El Salvador.
Two deaths are known of in Algeria, Indonesia, Morocco, Paraguay, South Africa and Sweden.