Geneva: Paying tribute to local and international journalists UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday said journalists paid a heavy price in uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

In an address to mark World Press Freedom Day, Pillay said, "three-quarters of all the journalists killed so far this year have lost their lives covering news stories in North Africa and the Middle East."

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that journalists across North Africa and the Middle East "have also been subjected to torture, other forms of violence, mock executions and sexual assault," as well as intimidation, obstruction, deportation, detentions and disappearances.

"The media--old and new, local and international --have been playing a vital role and also paying a heavy toll in the political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa over the first four months of 2011."

"In all, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been at least 450 attacks on journalists in this region alone since the beginning of the year," she added.

But while incidents involving foreign journalists resulted in an international outcry, the plight of local journalists and bloggers went relatively unnoticed.

"Of more than 850 journalists killed over the past 20 years, the great majority have been journalists killed in their own countries," after reporting on issues such as corruption, organised crime, politics and human rights, Pillay underlined.

"On this World Press Freedom Day, I would like to pay tribute to their courage and their determination to exercise their right to freedom of expression."