Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Fifty-three journalists were killed around the world in 2018, a three-year high that included a nearly two-fold increase in the number of reporters singled out for murder, a Committee to Protect Journalists report said Wednesday.
The total number of journalist deaths between Jan. 1 and Dec. 14 was up from 47 killed in 2017 and 50 in 2016. The CPJ said it tracks three types of deaths on the job -- reprisal murders (34 in 2018), deaths in combat or crossfire (11), and deaths on other dangerous assignments like covering violent protests (eight).
The organization noted a nearly double increase of reprisal murders from 18 in 2017 to 34 in 2018.
"The recent uptick in killings follows two years of decline, but comes as the jailing of journalists hits a sustained high -- adding up to a profound global crisis of press freedom," the CPJ said in the report.
The organization blamed a lack of international leadership on journalists' rights and safety for the uptick in deaths and imprisonment in 2018, citing the death of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October.
Khashoggi, who lived in self-imposed exile in the United States, wrote columns sharply critical of the Saudi government. He was killed after entering the Saudi Embassy in Turkey.
Though the CIA blamed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for ordering Khashoggi's death, President Donald Trump declined to implicate Mohammed, saying "maybe he did and maybe he didn't" have knowledge of the plan.
The CPJ said that even though Turkey has taken the most vocal stance against Khashoggi's death, the country "has effectively shut down the independent media and is jailing more journalists than any other around the world for the third consecutive year."
Also adding to the number of targeted murders was the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., which left four journalists and a sales associate dead. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. media in recent history.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, 13 journalists were killed, the most in any year since the CPJ began keeping track in 1992.
Still, the number of journalists killed in combat or crossfire was the lowest since 2011, something the CPJ attributed to a lack of access to combat zones and media outlets shying away growing risks.
The CPJ was investigating the deaths of another 23 journalists in 2018, though it has so far been unable to confirm that their motives were based on journalism.
In another report released Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders said more journalists were killed or faced violence in 2018 than in any other year on record. The organization's report, which included professional and non-professional members of the media, said 80 journalists were killed, 348 detained, 60 held hostage and three missing in 2018.
"Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical," RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire said.
"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."