An international press freedom group says the number of journalists killed in connection with their work is set to decline in 2016 from record levels in previous years, but that deaths of journalists covering war zones are on the rise.
In a report issued on December 19, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said fewer journalists were targeted for murder in 2016, while working as a war photographer or correspondent became the deadliest journalistic job.
CPJ said deaths of journalists in combat or caught in a crossfire was at the highest level since 2013 -- bolstered by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.
The study concludes that at least 48 journalists were killed in relation to their work from January 1 through December 15, 2016 -- down from 72 the previous year.
CPJ added, however, that it is still investigating the deaths of at least 27 other journalists around the world during 2016 to determine whether those deaths were work-related.
CPJ executive director Joel Simon said it is good news that fewer journalists were murdered in 2016 than in recent record years.
"The decline shows the critical importance of the fight to end impunity," Simon said. "However, journalists covering war continue to be killed at an extraordinarily high rate, a reflection of the brutality and unpredictability of modern conflict."
The journalists who were murdered in 2016 included Pavel Sheremet, a native of Belarus who was killed in Kyiv in July when a bomb was detonated under a car he was driving.
CPJ says Sheremet, a 1998 recipient of the media watchdog’s International Press Freedom Award, was stripped of his Belarusian citizenship in 2010 in retaliation for his reporting.
Other journalists died while on dangerous assignments, such as covering political unrest.
In Pakistan, DawnNews cameraman and Aaj TV cameraman Shehzad Ahmed were killed in August at Quetta Civil Hospital when a bomb killed at least 70 people -- many of them lawyers -- among a crowd that was grieving the assassination of the head of Balochistan's Bar Association.
In 2016, Syria remained the world's deadliest country for journalists for the fifth year in a row, according to CPJ.
Fourteen journalists were killed covering Syria's conflict in 2016, the same number as in 2015, the report said.
Altogether during the past five years, 107 journalists have been killed in the line of duty in Syria, CPJ says.
The report also noted that political groups, including Islamist militant organizations, were responsible for more than half of the killings of journalists around the world during 2016.
The watchdog's research concluded that photographer and camera operator were the deadliest journalistic jobs.
Around 20 percent of the journalists killed during 2016 were freelancers, while 90 percent of the journalists killed were local, not foreign, journalists, according to CPJ.