GENEVA - The Geneva-based non-governmental organization Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) on Tuesday said that at least 66 journalists were killed in 22 countries in the fist half of this year, up 32 percent compared with the same period of last year.

PEC said that five countries represent more than half of the fatalities: Afghanistan, Mexico, Syria, the United States and Yemen.

Terrorist groups in Afghanistan and criminal groups in Mexico bear the main responsibility of the high price paid by media workers, the organization said, adding that while in Yemen and Syria, journalists were killed in fighting while covering the ongoing conflict.

In the United States, however, a climate of hatred against the media could have caused the deadly attack on a Maryland newspaper, it said.  Founded in June 2004, the PEC aims to strengthen the legal protection and safety of journalists in conflict zones, areas of civil unrest, or on dangerous missions.