At least 442 media workers in 52 countries have died of coronavirus since early March, the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), a non-government organization with special consultative UN status, said Monday. 

“COVID-19 continues to claim many victims among journalists,” the Geneva-based group said on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists 2020, releasing an update after eight months of monitoring.

It said that 63 journalists have also been victims of targeted killing since January. The killing brings the total number of fatalities of media workers this year to more than 500.

“It is an extremely heavy and unprecedented toll. The safety of all journalists who work on the ground to inform on the pandemic is at stake,” said General-Secretary Blaise Lempen.

“Many victims are young; they have been infected at work. As the second wave has just begun, we urge all stakeholders to better protect the media workers, without preventing them from doing their job.”

By region, Latin America leads with more than half of the victims, or 251 deaths. Asia followed with 116 fatalities, then Europe with 30, ahead of North America (23) and Africa (22).

The PEC said that the actual death toll due to the novel coronavirus “is certainly higher,” as some countries do not report journalists’ deaths, or some of them were not tested before dying.

Peru had the heftiest toll with 93 journalists dying of COVID-19 since March.

The number of virus victims increased substantially in India, now the second most affected country with 47 deaths. Ecuador is third with 41 deaths, Brazil follows with 36, and Bangladesh with 35 fatalities.

In Mexico, at least 26 journalists died after contracting the infection, followed by the US (22), Pakistan (11), Panama (11) and Bolivia (9).

Eight journalists died each in the UK and Nigeria.

Seven victims were counted in Afghanistan and Honduras each, six in Nicaragua, five in Russia, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic each, and four in Colombia, France, and Spain each.

Three journalists passed away each in Italy, Cameroon, Egypt, Guatemala, Nepal, and El Salvador as well.

There were two deaths each in Algeria, Argentina, Indonesia, Iran, South Africa, and Sweden.

At least one virus-linked fatality was also recorded in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Togo and Zimbabwe.

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