A total of 65 journalists were killed around the world in a year seen as the least deadly for reporters in 14 years, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
In its annual report published on Tuesday, the France-based media watchdog noted a fall in the death toll from last year’s 79 journalists killed.
In this year’s count, 39 were murdered and deliberately targeted because of their reporting, while 26 were victims of conflict.
“Even though we have fewer number of killed journalists, the situation on the ground has not improved, unfortunately,” Alexandra El Khazen, head of the group’s Middle East desk, told Al Jazeera.
“We are still very concerned, even though the figures are less alarming than they were last year,” she said over the phone from Paris.
For the sixth consecutive year, Syria was the deadliest country for journalists with 12 killed, followed closely by Mexico at 11.
Syria is reeling from the effects of a civil war that dates back to 2011.
“My biggest challenges were to be in the field whenever attacks happen and try to cover as much as I can,” Zouhir Al Shimale, citizen journalist from Aleppo city, told Al Jazeera.
RSF said that the overall decrease in numbers may be a result of lobbying against governments by NGOs and rights groups.
Journalists abandoning countries that have become too dangerous may have also contributed to the downward trend, it said.
“It is encouraging that campaigns against impunity towards the press seem to have succeeded,” said Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and columnist. “A lot of work is still needed.”
As of December 1, the group also found that 326 reporters – fewer than 348 last year – were detained in connection with the provision of news and information.
Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in its report published earlier this month, said that a record number of journalists at 262 were put behind bars for their work in 2017.
In its annual report, RSF includes citizen journalists, professional journalists and media workers.
The two reports come as Al Jazeera reporter Mahmoud Hussein approaches one year of detention in an Egyptian jail cell.
Hussein, an Egyptian national based in Qatar, was detained and questioned by Egyptian authorities on December 20 last year after travelling to Cairo for a holiday.
He is accused of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos”.
Al Jazeera has rejected the allegations against him and urges his unconditional release.
According to RSF’s tally, China and Turkey imprisoned most journalists this year with 52 and 42 held respectively.
“The attacks on the media and journalists in the world have become more commonplace, and there are now a lot of strongmen that are on the rise,” said El Khazen of RSF.
She raised concern over the “mistrust of media”, particularly in “democratic” countries.
“Journalists are not only being targeted in non-democratic countries or warzone areas but also more and more in democracies where we have reached the age of false truths, propaganda, fake news and the suppression of freedom,” El Khazen said.
In 2017, the number of women journalists killed doubled compared with last year, RSF said.
The fatal shooting of Indian journalist and outspoken government critic, Gauri Lankesh, in her hometown of Bangalore sparked outrage across the country.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on November 20 to protect women journalists from sexist discrimination, violence and harassment.
But there is now increasing pressure on governments and international bodies by rights groups and media workers alike to protect journalists on the job.
“What is needed now is more campaigns to call for the immediate release of journalists behind bars,” said Al Jazeera journalist Baher Mohamed, who was wrongly jailed in Egypt in 2013.
He added: “All we need now is one united stand by all journalists all over the globe to stand for our colleagues.” SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS