A record number of journalists and media workers were killed or imprisoned in 2006, a media watchdog said.
Anna Politkovskaya was one of the year's most high-profile victims
Reporters Without Borders said that at least 110 media workers were killed, making it the world's deadliest year for journalists in over a decade.
Another 871 journalists were arrested or imprisoned around the world, while nearly 1,500 were attacked.
The organisation also accused Western countries of inadequate efforts to defend freedom of expression.
The information came as the Paris-based group released its annual survey on press freedom.
"A disturbingly record number of journalists and media workers were killed or thrown in prison in 2006," the organisation's secretary-general, Robert Menard, wrote in his introduction to the report.
"But even more deplorable was the lack of interest, and sometimes even the failure, by democratic countries in defending everywhere the values they are supposed to incarnate."
He highlighted the furore sparked by the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
"European institutions did not defend Denmark, whose embassies were attacked, or the European and Arab journalists who were threatened and arrested," he wrote.
"They seemed to choose silence for fear of offending Arab regimes."
China jailed Hong Kong-based journalist Ching Cheong this year
Mr Menard said there were many reasons to be worried.
Journalists had been victims of instability in the Middle East, the report said, with Iraq proving the deadliest country to work in.
Sixty-five people - 39 reporters and 26 media workers - were killed there in 2006 and kidnappings were also becoming more frequent, the report said.
North Korea, Eritrea, Cuba and Turkmenistan were all named "major culprits" for suppressing media freedoms.
China jailed the most journalists this year and in Russia, Anna Politkovskaya became the 21st journalist killed since President Vladimir Putin came to power.
Mr Menard described the two countries as "such serious violators of press freedom that it would be naive, even stupid, to expect them to play a positive role in freedom of expression".
The report also raised concern over increasing control over the internet in some countries.
China was the leading offender, it said, and globally 60 people were in prison for posting online criticism of their governments.