Out of the 53 journalists killed on the job so far this year, 34 were targeted in reprisal for their work, a media watchdog said on December 19.
In its annual report, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the danger of reporters being targeted for their journalism grew this year, despite a decline in the risks for war and conflict.
The toll representing those killed between January 1 and December 14 makes 2018 the deadliest year for reporters "singled out for murder" over the past three years, CPJ said.
"The number of journalists targeted for murder in reprisal for their reporting nearly doubled in 2018 from a year earlier, driving up the overall count of journalists killed on the job," the report said.
The total is up from 47 killed in 2017, of which 18 were "pinpointed for murder," CPJ said.
The data echoed similar concerns in a report this week from the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which put the number of reporters killed at 80 based on a different methodology that includes bloggers, citizen journalists, and media workers.
Both reports highlighted the increase in reprisals against journalists, highlighted by what the CPJ called the "brazen murder" of exiled Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul.
Afghanistan, where militants have stepped up attacks on journalists, was the deadliest country, followed by Syria and India, the report said.
In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber targeted a group of reporters, killing nine in a single attack in April, it said.
The CPJ also mentioned the killing in February of Slovakian investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, who was shot to death alongside his fiancée -- the second murder of an EU journalist covering corruption in less than six months, after the assassination of Maltese reporter Caruana Galizia in 2017.
It lamented "a lack of international leadership on journalists' rights and safety" that may be increasing the dangers for the news media, illustrated by the Khashoggi killing.
"The White House, traditionally a strong defender of global press freedom, has equivocated on the blame for Khashoggi's murder... Essentially, [U.S. President Donald] Trump signaled that countries that do enough business with the United States are free to murder journalists without consequence," the CPJ report said.
It added that, ironically, "the most vocal head of state in Khashoggi's case has been Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has effectively shut down the independent media and is jailing more journalists than any other around the world for the third consecutive year."
CPJ said it was investigating the killing of another 23 journalists in 2018 but so far not confirmed that the deaths were related to their work.
With reporting by AFP