The President of the European Parliament gave his backing yesterday to appeals by the International Federation of Journalists for media staff not to be targeted in the Iraq conflict.
Pat Cox, meeting with a delegation of journalists leaders from the IFJ and the National Union of Journalists in Great Britain and Ireland, said he welcomed the establishment of the International News Safety Institute in Brussels by a coalition of media organisations and press freedom groups.
European leaders are meeting in emergency session in Brussels today and the IFJ has called on them to ensure that there is no excessive use of force, that civilian casualties are kept to a minimum and that humanitarian workers and media staff are protected.
The IFJ has reiterated its "be safe, be professional" call to journalists and media staff working in the regions.
"There are hundreds of journalists and media staff working in Iraq and around the region and they are playing a vital role in a world hungry for news about the conflict," says the IFJ. "But news people must not be targeted by either side, their safety is our paramount concern."
The IFJ estimates that at least 3,000 news gatherers are in the region, many of them freelance and not attached to major news networks. "Our message is to be safe and be professional. Journalists must not take or exposed to unacceptable risks and they must not be subject to manipulation or control by any side," says the IFJ.
The IFJ has established a 24-hour news safety hot-line for journalists and media staff who run into trouble in the region.