An annual review by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found that murders by extremists contributed to 2014 being very dangerous for the international press. Sixty journalists have been killed this year.
The Committee to protect Journalists (CPJ) in its latest report said that a large proportion of international reporters died while reporting from conflict-ridden areas, particularly in the Middle East, Ukraine and Afghanistan.
A total of 60 journalists died globally in 2014 in relation to their work, down from 70 in 2013, but one fourth of these were journalists from the international press, the CPJ said.
Westerners deliberately targeted
Numbers this year reflected the "increasingly volatile nature of conflict zones in which Westerners are often deliberately targeted," wrote the authors of the report.
The dangers of working as an international journalist gained renewed attention in April this year when Anja Niedringhaus, an Associated Press reporter and a German citizen, was killed in Afghanistan by a police officer as she covered elections.
In August 2014, militants of the "Islamic State"(IS) killed US journalists James Foley and Steven Sottloff. Foley had been kidnapped in Syria two years ago and was beheaded in August this year, with the extremists publishing an online video of the murder. Two weeks later, the IS published another video showing the beheading of US-Israeli journalist Steven Sottloff, kidnapped last year in August.
Despite the brutal killings of international journalists, local reporters were most under threat, the CPJ said. In Syria for example, 20 local correspondents were missing and believed to be held by the IS.
Syria was the most dangerous country for reporters in 2014, with 17 deaths, followed by Iraq (5) and Ukraine (5). Other countries considered extremely dangerous for journalists included Israel and Gaza strip, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Press freedom, according to the CPJ, was the most restricted in China, where 220 journalists were jailed for expressing their opinions.
The CPJ's research showed that the past three years were the most deadly period for correspondents. The organization said that its different research method meant that its death count could be significantly lower than other organizations monitoring journalists' safety.
More than 40 percent of journalists killed were "targeted for murder" and eight countries where correspondents were killed, including Somalia, Pakistan and Brazil, were those that scored high on the "Impunity Index"- meaning that the killers often went free.
The CPJ, which has been compiling data on every journalist killed in work-related situations since 1992, said that nearly 70 percent of reporters died while reporting on politics. War was the next deadliest beat at 60 percent, followed by human rights at 55 percent.