An international school that teaches journalists how to protect themselves has been launched in the Ukraine, report the project`s founders, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) and the Georgiy Gongadze Foundation, according to IFEX.

Starting early next year, journalists can enroll at the School of Journalists` Safety in Yaremche, west Ukraine, to learn how to safely cover conflicts and demonstrations, and to know their rights when they are detained, arrested or facing trial. They will also be taught computer safety, from how to safeguard confidential emails to know who is spying on their websites. A special website for distance learning will also be set up.

According to CJES director Oleg Panfilov, serious shortcomings in the professional training of journalists can put journalists in dangerous circumstances. "Specifically, (it is) their inability to apply professional skills that can ensure their safe performance, including the lack of knowledge of pertinent laws and how to use them in daily practice," he says.

Representatives from the former Soviet countries - Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Ukraine - met in Yaremche, west Ukraine on 14-15 September to discuss the project and various journalist safety issues.

The school will be dedicated to Georgiy Gongadze, a critical Ukrainian journalist abducted and murdered in 2000, and Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter who was murdered in 2006 for criticising the Russian government`s policies in Chechnya.

Both murders exposed the dangers journalists face and the government`s failure to protect freedom of speech. To date, no one has been charged in their killings.

Ukraine was chosen to host the new school because participants felt journalists from the country have considerable experience defending their rights and demonstrating solidarity, as was manifested after Gongadze`s murder.

Myroslava Gongadze, Georgiy`s widow and another architect of the project, said that the training "will change (journalists`) attitude to their profession and teach them to defend their and their colleagues` rights."