A total of 80 journalists were killed this year, with 348 jailed and 60 held hostage, according to annual figures from Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres).
More than half (49) of the journalists killed in 2018 were deliberately targeted, the press freedom group has said.
It said figures were up in all categories – murder, jailing, hostage-taking and enforced disappearances – showing an “unprecedented level of hostility towards media personnel”.
“Journalists have never before been subjected to as much violence and abusive treatment as in 2018,” RSF warned.
The 80 murdered journalists include non-professionals and media workers. It is up more by seven per cent on last year, RSF said.
For professional journalists alone, RSF claims deaths are up by 15 per cent, from 55 last year to 63 this year.
RSF general secretary Christophe Deloire said: “Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical.
“The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists.
“Amplified by social networks, which bear heavy responsibility in this regard, these expressions of hatred legitimise violence, thereby undermining journalism, and democracy itself, a bit more every day.”
Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2018, with 15 killed, followed by Syria, with 11 killed, the annual report shows.
Mexico was the deadliest country outside a conflict zone, with nine journalists killed this year.
The fatal shooting of five employees of Maryland’s Capital Gazette newspaper in June saw the United States rank among the deadliest countries for journalists.
The number of journalists in jail worldwide this year is also up nearly seven per cent on last year. More than half of them are being held in just five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey.
Reuters pair Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have spent a year in jail after being convicted of breaching the Official Secrets Act in Myanmar, despite testimony from a police officer at trial that they had been set up.
China remains the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with 60 currently held in custody, of whom three quarters are non-professional journalists.
The 60 journalists currently held hostage is 11 per cent higher than this time last year. All but one of them are being held in three Middle Eastern countries: Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. They include six foreign journalists.
Despite the Islamic State’s defeat in Iraq and retreat in Syria, little information has emerged about the fate of these hostages, except for Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who was freed after three years of captivity in Syria.
A Ukrainian journalist is still being held in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic by authorities who accuse him of spying. RSF also registered three new cases of journalists disappearing in 2018 – two in Latin America and one in Russia.
The RSF round-up of abuse and deadly violence against journalists has been compiled every year since 1995. Read the full report for 2018.