Reporters Without Borders' latest report on press freedom shows the situation in Europe has worsened in conjunction with the rise of increasingly authoritarian governments.
The index ranks Bulgaria at the last place in the European Union, preceded by Hungary and Malta.
Among the worst ranked within the EU was Slovakia, where investigative journalist Ján Kuciak was killed in February 2018, as well as Italy, where writer Roberto Saviano faced charges of libelling Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.
While Europe is ranked higher than in other regions when it comes to press freedom, rights groups say much more needs to be done.
"Reporters Without Borders does say that Europe is the least worst, but all the indicators in Europe are almost catastrophically bad in terms of violence. Almost a witchhunt against journalists demonising them, calling them traitors, enemies," said William Horsley, media freedom representative of the Association of European Journalists.
Better international collaboration is needed to protect journalists, say the sons of murdered investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galicia have called for better international collaboration to protect journalists.
"Journalists have really worked hard on investigations, sometimes even one year long, crossing many borders, working in many different languages. When you look at the way national police forces are working within the EU, it seems very very antiquated in comparison," said Matthew Caruana Galizia, journalist and software engineer.
"They are very bad, inefficient in exchanging information. Organisations like Europol show themselves to be really ineffective at fighting cross-border crime,” he added.
Last December the European Union launched an action plan against disinformation.
"We have reiterated on a number of occasions the sacred work that journalists do in terms of contributing to democracy. We have condemned the murders of journalists in Malta and Slovakia in the strongest possible terms and we have also urged national authorities to investigate all of these and follow up," said European Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva to reporters.
Within this climate of fear, the work of journalists has become increasingly difficult. In addition to verbal attacks and physical violence, the media is under increasing judicial harassment almost everywhere in the world — and over 250 journalists remain in jail.