The International News Safety Institute appealed last week to all parties in the current Middle East debacle to respect the safety and security of journalists and other news media staff.

Already, several journalists have encountered hostility and others are injured. Fortunately no one has been killed recently, although Israeli forces routinely attack journalists, having killing many in the past and the US in its assault on Iraq killed several others, including those from Al Jazeera and Palestinian colleague working for Reuters, Mazen Dana.

The US war on Iraq demonstrates how easily those covering the news are sucked into hostilities. INSI counts 126 dead journalists in the bloodiest war for the news media since WWII.

"Journalists of all persuasions representing news organizations of every stripe are covering the fighting in Lebanon, Gaza and in Israel. They have a dangerous and difficult job to do and their safety and independence must be honored," said INSI Director Rodney Pinder.

"All parties to the conflict should remember that without free and open reporting not only the outside world, but they themselves, will be blinded."

This is precisely the reason that Israeli forces attack journalists, confiscating cameras, recordings, and film. No one on the outside must know their “dirty little secrets,” reported an American journalist who asked to remain unnamed after the Israelis banned the journalist for reporting the truth.

The Geneva Conventions demand respect for human beings in time of armed conflict, and that includes respect for the human rights of journalists, who are classified as civilians entitled to protection from violence, threats, murder, imprisonment and torture.

These legally binding treaties date from 1949 and have been ratified or acceded to by most countries. They form part of international humanitarian law. Violation makes a soldier or militia member guilty of a war crime.

From a press release, the organization included its mission statement. “INSI is a unique coalition of news organizations, journalist support groups and individuals exclusively dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous environments. It is non-political and impartial and works to create a global safety network of advice and assistance to journalists and other news gatherers who may face danger covering the news on international assignment or in their own countries.”