At least 60 journalists around the world were killed in 2014 while on the job or because of their work, and 44 percent of them were targeted for murder, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

An "unusually high proportion," or about one-fourth, of those killed were international journalists, though the overwhelming number of journalists threatened continue to be local, the New York-based organization's new report said.

Those killed in 2014 include Anja Niedringhaus, a photographer for The Associated Press who was shot to death while covering elections in Afghanistan.

The CPJ report released early Tuesday said the number of journalists killed in 2014 was down from 70 the year before, but the past three years have been the deadliest since the organization started compiling such records in 1992.

The crushing conflict in Syria, now well into its fourth year, has been a major factor. The report said at least 17 journalists were killed there this year, with at least 79 killed since the fighting began in 2011.

Syria was connected to two of the more horrifying killings of journalists this year, the beheadings by the Islamic State group of American freelancers James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Both had disappeared while reporting on the conflict.

The conflict in Ukraine between the new government and Russian-backed separatists saw five journalists and two media workers killed as relations between neighboring Russia and the West sank to their lowest level since the Cold War. The killings were the first that the CPJ had recorded in Ukraine since 2001.

Fifty days of fighting in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians over the summer saw at least four journalists and three media workers killed, including AP video journalist Simone Camilli and translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash who were killed by an explosion of leftover ordnance.

In Iraq, at least five journalists were killed, three of them while covering the fight against the Islamic State group as it swept through the country's northwest.

The report also points out the first journalist killings in several years in some countries, including Paraguay, where three deaths were the first since 2007, and Myanmar, where the killing in custody of a freelance journalist was the first death since 2007.

CPJ also reported the first killing of a journalist in the Central African Republic, which has been torn apart by unprecedented violence between Christians and Muslims.

And even covering the deadliest-ever Ebola outbreak has been fatal, with the bodies of a journalist and two media workers found in a village in Guinea where they had gone to cover a public awareness campaign.

The CPJ says it is still investigating the deaths of at least 18 other journalists this year. The organization does not count deaths from illness or car or plane crashes unless they were the result of "hostile action."