The United Nations should also criminalise reckless neglect of journalists’ safety and ensure deaths were independently investigated, said the world’s largest journalists’ group on Tuesday.

The Geneva Convention already bans deliberate attacks on civilians but International Federation of Journalists' General secretary Aidan White said that had failed to protect journalists.

“We need clear and explicit laws that will strengthen protection for media staff to ensure that every killing of a journalist in a war zone is subject to full and independent investigation,” he said.

An IFJ statement said the new rules were needed “to make targeting of media and negligence over journalists’ safety a war crime”.

Reporters in Iraq

The IFJ said seven journalists died in incidents involving US-led occupation forces in Iraq, including Aljazeera reporter Tariq Ayyoub.

Spanish cameraman injured in
Iraq during US attack

He was killed when a US missile slammed into the Aljazeera offices in Baghdad in April.

“We must never forget these seven deaths,” said White.

As a first step, war reporters needed additional protection such as that which the UN Security Council gave aide workers in August, he said.

The Security Council said in resolution 1502 that it was “gravely concerned” about attacks on aide workers and urged authorities to take more care of their safety and allow them free movement and facilities to do their job.

The IFJ also said it was concerned that some UN members, including the United States, had not signed the 1977 Geneva Convention additional protocols, which define the rights of civilians-including journalists-during war.

As a long term goal, the IFJ wanted an explicit ban on targeting journalists or recklessly disregarding their safety during war in any revision of international war crimes law.

The IFJ also said it wanted to establish an independent process to investigate killings of journalists during war which could call witnesses and access official documents.