The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says 118 journalists and media staff were killed worldwide in 2014.

Those killed were either targeted for their work, caught in crossfire and reckless attacks or died in accidents and natural disasters while on assignment, the IFJ said on Wednesday.

It urged governments to "make the protection of journalists their priority".

Journalists are "targeted not only to restrict the free flow of information, but increasingly as leverage to secure huge ransoms and political concessions through sheer violence", Jim Boumelha, IFJ's president, said in a statement. 

Number of Media Staff Killings:
  • Pakistan : 14
  • Syria : 12
  • Afghanistan : 9
  • Palestine : 9
  • Iraq : 8
  • Ukraine : 8
  • Honduras : 6
  • Mexico : 5

"It is time for action in the face of unprecedented threats to journalists who are targeted not only to restrict the free flow of information, but increasingly as leverage to secure huge ransoms and political concessions through sheer violence."

As a result some media organisations have become hesitant in sending their staff to conflict zones or even using material from freelancers on the ground, Boumelha said, adding that war coverage will "be poorer for lack of independent witnesses" unless safety for journalists improves.

IFJ said the public beheadings of journalists, including American freelancers  James Foley and Steven Sotloff, by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were a "game changer in the governments' attitude to media projection".

Ongoing wars and conflict in Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine as well as violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan account for a large number of targeted killings. 

Pakistan currently ranks as the deadliest country with 14 journalists killed, followed by Syria with 12 journalists dead.

Afghanistan and Palestine reported nine deaths each whie eight were killed in Iraq and Ukraine. 

Mahran al Deeri, an Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent, was also among those killed while on assignment.

He was killed in Syria on December 10 while covering battles in the city of al-Sheikh Maskin in rural Deraa.

Mostefa Souag, Al Jazeera's acting director-general, said: "Targeting journalists will not deter us from reporting the truth which we have been committed to for over 18 years.

"Throughout our years of coverage we have lost many colleagues on this mission but our brave journalists are committed to this despite the constant dangers and challenges."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies