[JURIST] Seven countries on Friday committed to new efforts to protect journalists and their crews in armed conflicts following the conclusion of a meeting in Switzerland of the 194 signatories of the Geneva Conventions. The 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement [official website] focused in part on the role of international humanitarian law in protecting journalists during ongoing international hostilities [ICRC backgrounder, PDF]. In addition to adopting a non-binding resolution [PDF text; summary] reaffirming a commitment to international humanitarian law, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, and Denmark pledged to take extra steps to ensure the rights afforded to journalists under Article 79 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [text]. That provision specifically designates journalists as civilians and guarantees their rights under Article III of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], including protections against murder, torture, the taking of hostages, and guarantee access to humanitarian and medical assistance.
The ICRC has noted that while these protections have been a matter of international humanitarian law for over 50 years, greater steps need to be taken [press release] to disseminate information and ensure that the international community enforces the law. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website], 63 journalists have been killed in 2007 [CPJ report] while directly engaged in reporting. The war in Iraq has accounted for 31 of these deaths. AP has more.