China, Egypt and Iran topped a list of countries jailing journalists in 2015, a year that saw a slight decline in the number of journalists behind bars worldwide, a press freedom watchdog has said.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists released a report on Tuesday that identified a list of 199 journalists in prison due to their work in 2015, as compared with 221 the previous year.


QUIZ: What are the dangers facing journalists globally?


A quarter of those jailed were in China, the world's worst offender for the second year in a row. The 49 journalists in prison there represents a record low for the country.   

Iran, Vietnam and Ethiopia were among the countries holding fewer journalists prisoner than before, but many of those released continued to face legal charges or harsh restrictions, including forced exile­, the report said.

Commenting on Egypt, the committee said: "President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi continues to use the pretext of national security to clamp down on dissent. Cairo is holding 23 journalists in jail, compared with 12 a year ago."

According to the report, media freedom has also taken a turn for the worse in Turkey, which has seen a doubling of the number of journalists in jail over the year to 14.

"The country released dozens of journalists in 2014 after being the world's worst jailer for two consecutive years, but in 2015 - amid two general elections, further entanglement in the Syrian civil war, and the end of a fragile ceasefire with fighters of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party - fresh arrests make it the fifth worst jailer globally," the report said.


WATCH: Turkey - Debasing the free press?


Other countries singled out include Azerbaijan with eight imprisoned journalists, Saudi Arabia and Syria with seven each, Vietnam with six, and Bahrain, Bangladesh and Myanmar with five a piece.

Another report released on Tuesday by the Reporters Without Borders group said 54 professional journalists are being held hostage worldwide, a 35 percent increase on last year.

Syria is the country where non-state groups are holding the biggest number of journalists - 26. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant alone is holding 18, mainly in Syria and Iraq.

The report also said that eight journalists went missing in 2015 - mainly in conflict zones.

Source: Al Jazeera