ICE blogs

May 23, 2016

CPJ launches anonymous submission system

Filed under: Blogroll, News, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 1:26 pm

The Committee to Protect Journalists has launched a special submission system allowing journalists to contact the organisation with reports of press freedom violations safely and anonymously.

SecureDrop is an open-source, encrypted submission system for news organisations that journalists can use to submit messages and files to the CPJ without revealing their identity, location, or the contents of their messages to potential attackers. To submit information to the CPJ via SecureDrop, journalists should download the latest version of the Tor browser, then use it to visit CPJ’s SecureDrop address at 2×2hb5ykeu4qlxqe.onion.

SecureDrop, which was created by the late activist Aaron Swartz and investigative journalist Kevin Poulsen, is now maintained and developed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. CPJ technology programme co-ordinator Geoffrey King said: ‘SecureDrop combines a high level of security, which is inherent to the system, with an interface that is easy to use.’

Tom Lowenthal, CPJ staff technologist, commented: ‘We live in a world where ubiquitous government surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies. Even comparatively free states like the US and UK engage in mass surveillance, and many other states use technology to harm journalists and suppress journalism. In this environment, tools like SecureDrop will continue to be necessary for the effective practice of journalism without putting reporters or their sources at risk.’

• See https://www.cpj.org/blog/2016/05/how-securedrop-helps-cpj-protect-journalists.php

April 28, 2016

Media’s role in challenging ‘criminal state’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, politics, new books — news_editor @ 1:07 pm

A call for publics to use social media technologies to assert themselves against established authority is made by Dan Hind in his latest publication, The public and the mass.

Hind, author of the acclaimed The return of the public, argues: ‘The public forming platforms would need to have a very different character from, say, Facebook. Rather than monetising their consumers from panoramic surveillance they would generate defined data outputs that would be shared among those who create them. The design would enable us to learn more about what people think, to change minds and have our own minds changed. The emphasis would be on meaningful privacy, public transparency and equality in speech.’

To help inspire a new movement promoting constitutional liberties, Hind looks back to the colonies in the period leading up to the American Revolution. ‘They did so through a discussion of constitutional forms using public meetings and cheap and easily pirated pamphlets. It was a matter of forming new publics for the purpose of creating a new political order.’ Their activities were centred on the publishing industry and epitomised by Thomas Paine’s donation of his royalties from Common sense (1776) to the cause of ending royalty on the continent.
‘Is it so far-fetched to imagine that another wave of public formation, drawing on the capabilities of the software sector and intent on securing individual liberty might develop and distribute the powers needed in a new constitutional order?’

Hind begins by highlighting the distinction made by the celebrated American sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) between the mass society and the public: ‘The idea of a mass society suggests the idea of an elite of power. The idea of the public, in contrast, suggests the liberal tradition of a society without any power elite, or at any rate with shifting elites of no sovereign consequence.’ Elites play down the constitutional significance of their effective control over the communications system. And they panic when ‘the nature of the relationship between elite rule and the communications system threatens to become visible’ as happened following the Chelsea Manning/WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden/Guardian revelations.

The files did not reveal isolated examples of state criminality. ‘They set out the substantial integration of the state and the corporate sector, including the major media, around a project encompassing aggressive war, torture, and the indiscriminate seizure of private information.’
But in the end, Hind is hopeful: ‘The same technologies that permit both mass surveillance and the massive infiltration of the citizen body can be used both to clarify public opinion and establish its superiority over private interests and secret bureaucracies.’

• The public and the mass, Commonwealth; see http://commonwealth-publishing.com/shop/the-public-and-the-mass/.

April 16, 2016

EU rulings ‘put press freedom at risk’

New EU rulings on whistleblowers and ‘right to be forgotten’ laws put press freedom at risk, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The passage of the European Trade Secrets Protection Act is particularly controversial. A number of MEPs and members of the press including Elise Lucet, a France2 investigative journalist whose petition against the Bill gathered half a million signatures, warned: ‘The trade secrets directive still raises doubts as to whether journalists and whistleblowers are appropriately protected.’ And Martin Pigeon, of the non-governmental organisation, Corporate Europe Observatory, told the BBC: ‘It would have potentially criminalised the release of Panama Papers.’

The Data Protection Package also raises concerns. Despite assurances from the commission, the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling, under which search engines can be ordered to de-list entries from web searches, has been carried over under a ‘right to erasure’ provision. According to George Brock, Professor of Journalism at City University London: ‘Contrary to what is often claimed, the [new] regulation does not solve the problems caused by the Google Spain case of 2014 which established the right for individuals to ask major search engines, such as Google, for internet links to be taken down if certain conditions are met. Instead of a specific remedy to an identifiable problem, the regulation is sweeping in its scope and powers and its approach to weighing free expression against privacy remains unbalanced.’

Members of the press in EU countries are already facing challenges, with Germany considering using the law against insulting a country’s leader to bring charges against a television comedian for allegedly insulting the Turkish president, and a photojournalist in Spain being fined €601 under the country’s so-called gag law after posting a photograph of a policeman making an arrest. In France, photojournalist Maya Vidon-White has been charged under a law banning the publication of photographs showing victims of terror attack, according to Associated Reporters Abroad.

• See Jean-Paul Marthoz at https://cpj.org/blog/2016/04/eu-rulings-on-whistleblowers-and-right-to-be-forgo.php

March 1, 2016

Arab journalists bear the brunt of press freedom

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 12:37 am

Muhamed Hassan outlines the plight of Arab journalists fighting for media freedom

According to an independent Jordanian centre which aims for the protection of journalists and press freedom in the Middle East, the year 2015 proved dangerous for media staffers: 58 journalists died in 19 Arabic states, with 30 of them killed by Daesh, 69 journalists were kidnapped, and 3,863 violations were committed against them. It confirms that Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia as the most dangerous countries for journalists.

Meanwhile, a quick look at the headlines of the two press freedom groups, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows how serious the situation is for journalists in Iraq:

1. Mounting deadly danger for journalists in Iraq – 11 May 2015;
2. Journalists targeted for covering anti-corruption protests – 12 October 2015;
3. Kurdish security forces unleash wave of terror on media – 17 October 2015.

Recently, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) in Iraq, revealed that some media teams for Al Hura and Rudaw news outlets were attacked, with their equipment damaged, by official military personnel in recently liberated Ramadi despite obtaining permission to cover their work. JFO wants Iraqi ministries of defence and interior, and international human rights organisations to investigate these incidents.

No doubt the hopes of the ‘Arab Spring’ to usher in democracy and transparency in the Middle East have fizzled out so fast that nothing seems to have changed except that the politicians were evasive enough to camouflage the new era with broken promises.

Many Arab countries are plagued with the emergence of organised terrorism, and the process of democracy has had a battering at the hands of old and newly formed dictators and militant groups.

Journalists are the lifeblood of a truly democratic society. Without their investigative work, politicians and influential figures would find it easy to ride roughshod over the masses. They help shed light on the malpractice of those who are in power.

But to achieve that, they are harassed, kidnapped, imprisoned and murdered, and as long as the Middle East remains volatile and unstable, the battle for press freedom will remain a daily fight.

• See https://immersedinthinking.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/arab-journalists-bear-the-brunt-of-press-freedom/

December 12, 2015

Charles Gerald Fraser, pioneering black journalist, dies

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 7:56 pm

Charles Gerald Fraser, pioneering New York Times journalist of Afro-Caribbean American heritage, has died in New York, aged 90. Amongst his many notable assignments, he reported on Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech in Washington in 1963, taught generations of reporters at the Columbia School of Journalism that diversity matters, and entered the 2015 Hall of Fame of the US Black Journalists’ Association earlier this year — writes Thomas L Blair, editor/publisher, Chronicleworldwordpress.com; thomb91@gmail.com.

December 2, 2015

Media monopolies rule!

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, media policy, journalism — news_editor @ 6:38 pm

Five companies account for more than 80 per cent of local newspaper titles in the UK – more than four times the combined number of titles published by the remaining 56 publishers – and 85 per cent of revenue.

These startling figures appear in a new report, Noose tightens around the news, by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. Trinity Mirror has just bought up the Local World group for £154 million, making it the biggest operator in the field by far. ‘It will dominate the market like none has before, with a combined weekly circulation of 9 million copies of 36 daily newspapers, eight franchises to produce Metro freesheets, 88 weekly paid-for newspapers, five Sunday newspapers and 43 weekly free newspapers. The next two largest regional press publishers, Newsquest and Johnston Press, each have weekly circulations of around 5 million.’

Local World was created only three years ago as a buyout of two existing groups: Northcliffe Newspapers and Iliffe News and Media, and was then valued at £100 million. Last year it recorded an operating profit of £39 million on a turnover of £221 million. The CPBF report comments: ‘This is the local paper industry that is supposed to be loss-making and moribund.’

In commercial television, the national company ITV has bought up Ulster Television in Northern Ireland. ‘The deal is the penultimate step in the destruction of the ITV network as originally set up as a counterbalance to the BBC. Of the 15 original regional franchises only one – STV in Scotland – now survives.’

The CPBF expresses concern that there has been no intervention by any regulatory body over these takeovers. ‘The case for regulatory action gets stronger and stronger.’

Monopolies rule throughout the media. Two companies have almost 40 per cent of all commercial local analogue radio licences and control two-thirds of all commercial digital stations. On the internet, UK search is dominated by Google while the most popular apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook, itself the most popular social media site.

‘This concentration of media ownership creates conditions in which wealthy individuals and organisations can amass huge political and economic power and distort the media landscape to suit their interests and personal views.’

• Free Press, journal of Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, 23 Orford Road, London E17 9NL; 07729 846 146; freepresspbf.org.uk

November 1, 2015

Concerns over EU move to curtail freedom of expression

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 6:39 pm

Proposals to be considered next month by the European Parliament requiring privately owned companies to act as censors of content ruled to be extremist have been condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists as posing serious threats to freedom of expression.

The proposals appeared in a resolution adopted on October 20 by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the Parliament and due to be submitted for a plenary vote in November.

These developments in the EU tie in with similar initiatives in the UK, which risk undermining press freedom in the name of fighting terrorism. British police used special powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 in August to seize the laptop of Secunder Kermani, a reporter for BBC Two’s flagship news show Newsnight, The laptop carried communication between the BBC journalist and a man in Syria who publicly identified himself as an Islamic State member.

Ian Katz, editor of Newsnight, commented: ‘We are concerned that the use of the Terrorism Act to obtain communication between journalists and sources will make it very difficult for reporters to cover this issue of critical public interest.’

According to Michelle Stanistreet, general-secretary of the National Union of Journalists: ‘There are serious questions to be answered about why the order obtained by the police warranted the seizing of a journalist’s laptop – which may well have contained confidential information on other sources and other stories too. Using journalists as tools of the police in this way has a chilling effect on press freedom and hampers the ability of journalists to protect their sources and do their jobs properly and with integrity.’

And Joe McNamee, director of Brussels-based network European Digital Rights, warned: ‘If a journalist is searching on criminality or corruption, there is a chance that he/she will attract attention.’

The CPJ highlighted in its recent report on the EU and press freedom (see https://www.cpj.org/reports/2015/09/press-freedom-at-risk-europe.php) how the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the country’s leading media organisations. In 2013, in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations on the NSA, the Guardian was forced to destroy hard drives containing information related to the investigative report after the government threatened legal action. Also David Miranda, a Brazilian national and partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained at Heathrow airport while travelling between Berlin and Rio. The High Court ruled the detention legal and proportionate, a view Miranda is due to challenge at the Court of Appeal next month.

• See https://www.cpj.org/blog/2015/10/as-police-seize-newsnight-laptop-concerns-at-reach.php

September 2, 2015

Beyond Clickbait and Commerce: The Ethics, Possibilities and Challenges of Not-for-Profit Media

Filed under: Blogroll, News, Headlines, journalism, professional ethics, media education — news_editor @ 4:20 pm

A special issue of Ethical Space, an international peer-reviewed journal for academics and practitioners, is seeking papers on not-for-profit journalism and alternatively funded media.

Deadline for Abstracts: 28 SEPTEMBER 2015

The media pluralism debate is dominated by concerns about overly powerful corporate media and the effect this has on democracy and diversity of media content. Increasingly, scholars have extended their critical analysis to fast-growing commercial digital intermediaries and content providers. The counterbalance to this corporate content is public service broadcasting and publicly owned media organisations, but what other forms might not-for-profit media take?

With media ethics as the underlying theme, this special issue will examine examples of alternatively funded media from around the world; critically assessing what they actually - and could - contribute to local, national and global society; addressing the main theoretical and pragmatic challenges and obstacles for such initiatives, and reflecting on the ethical dilemmas and strengths of not-for-profit media and journalism.

Submissions on community radio and television, newspapers, magazines, websites, social networks, mobile applications, open data projects, and any other form of not-for-profit media are welcome. Authors are also encouraged to think beyond traditional mass media and journalism, to other forms of communication, such as civic data sharing, NGO activities, political campaigning and community discussion. These media might be publicly owned, charitable, co-operative, community interest or any other alternative to commercial and profit-making models. Funding sources might include advertising, subscriptions, crowd-sourcing, philanthropy and public grants, for example. And they may occur on any kind of platform.

Authors may wish to offer a thematic paper, rather than basing their discussion on a particular model or example. Applicants are encouraged to critically interrogate the notion of not-for-profit and charitably funded media, and consider the particular ethical challenges posed by whatever aspect of not-for-profit media the author is engaged with. What benefit might there be to a profit-driven model, in terms of serving public needs and desires? Conversely, what do not-for-profit models offer? What impact might such models have on the PR and advertising industries? And for public participants and audiences? What are, or might be, the power relationships between not-for-profit media, other democratic institutions, and the community?

Perspectives from different disciplines are welcome. These might include, but are not limited to, legal and socio-legal studies, media, journalism and PR studies, media sociology and anthropology, media history, and political science.

We are looking for full papers of 5,000 words to 6,000 words including notes and references; and short articles of 2,000-3,000 words.

Please submit abstracts of 150 words and five keywords to the guest editors of this special issue by 28th September 2015 via judith.townend@sas.ac.uk. Please indicate if you envisage it as a full paper or short article.

Decisions will be made in early October. The deadline for full papers and articles is 20 December 2015. The journal will be published in the second half of 2016.

Guest editors:

• Denis Muller, Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

• Judith Townend, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London

About Ethical Space

Ethical Space is an international peer-reviewed journal that provides a space for both academics and practitioners to reflect on and critique the ethics of communication. It contains news, views, interviews and peer-reviewed papers on ethical matters in journalism, public relations, marketing, health communication, information science, organisational and management communication and related fields. Its editors are Richard Keeble, Donald Matheson and Shannon Bowen. http://www.communicationethics.net/

August 26, 2015

Treason case against journalists in Germany collapses

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 5:13 pm

Treason case against journalists in Germany collapses

Richard Lance Keeble

Germany’s chief federal prosecutor, Harald Range, has been ordered by Justice Minister Heiko Maas to withdraw as an independent expert from the investigation of two journalists working for the news website Netzpolitik over the alleged disclosure of state secrets.

According to Jean-Paul Martoz, of the Committee to Protect Journalists: ‘This dramatic epilogue of a story that gripped Germany and mobilised the public is a major victory for press freedom, investigative journalism, and privacy rights. It stands in stark contrast to developments in other European countries, particularly France and the UK where increased surveillance powers have not been met with similar resistance.’

Markus Beckedahl and André Meister, the co-founders of the website, had been accused of high treason for quoting from classified intelligence reports in articles posted on 25 February and 15 April outlining the secret services’ proposals to expand surveillance, particularly of social media users. Opposition politicians, fellow journalists and even members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the junior partner in the governing coalition, immediately protested. People took to the streets and sent money to Netzpolitik. And on Friday 31 July, the federal prosecutor suspended the treason inquiry, pending an internal assessment on how to proceed.

The case follows revelations in May that the German foreign intelligence service, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), had cooperated extensively with the US National Security Agency (NSA) in its surveillance activities.

‘The threat of being charged with treason has a clear general chilling effect on journalists engaged in investigative reporting,’ the OSCE Representative for Media Freedom, Dunja Mijatovic, said in a letter to Germany’s foreign minister. ‘In cases of possible violations of confidentiality or state secrets regulations, authorities should refrain from trailing the media, whose job it is to investigate and report about issues of public importance,’ she wrote.

• See https://cpj.org/blog/2015/08/germany-scores-against-the-surveillance-state.php.

July 29, 2015

History of Chadian dictator: Missing from the media

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, politics, conflict — news_editor @ 11:16 am

Richard Lance Keeble

So finally, Hissene Habre, the former dictator of Chad, is being tried for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture during his rule from 1982-1990. A few news items focused on the scuffles which broke out at the trial last week in Dakar, Senegal - and the adjournment of the case until September. Yet the history of the attempts to bring Habré to justice has gone largely unreported in the Western corporate media.

Formerly part of French Equatorial Africa, Chad gained its independence in 1960 and since then has been gripped by civil war. In a rare instance of coverage on 21 May 1992, the London-based Guardian carried four short paragraphs reporting how 40,000 people were estimated to have died in detention or been executed during the tyranny of Habré. A justice ministry report concluded that Habré had committed genocide against the Chadian people.

First, in a case inspired by the one against Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet, several human rights organisations, led by Human Rights Watch, filed a suit against Habré in Senegal (his refuge since 1990). They argued that he could be tried anywhere for crimes against humanity and that former heads of state were not immune. However, on 21 March 2001, the Senegal Court of Cassation threw out the case. And so human rights campaigners turned their attention to Belgium where one of the victims of Habré’s torture lived.

Following threats from the United States in June 2003 that Belgium risked losing its status as host to Nato’s headquarters, a historic law of 1993, which allowed victims to file complaints in Belgium for atrocities committed abroad, was repealed. A new law, adopted in August 2003, allowed for the continuation of the case against Habré – much to the delight of human rights campaigners. But then attention switched back to Senegal. Here, under pressure from the International Court of Justice and victim campaign groups, a special tribunal was set up to investigate the allegations – the Extraordinary African Chambers. Finally, in February 2015, a panel of four judges announced there was enough evidence to put the former dictator on trial after carrying out a 19-month pre-trial investigation, mainly in Chad, interviewing 2,500 witnesses and victims, analysing documents from Habré’s secret police and visiting mass graves.

While coverage of Chad has been largely missing from the Western media, so too was the massive, secret war waged by the United States and Britain from bases in Chad against Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar Gaddafi. British involvement in a 1996 plot to assassinate Gaddafi was reported as an isolated event – following revelations by David Shayler. Yet it is best seen as part of a wide-ranging and long-standing strategy of the US, French and UK secret states to remove Gaddafi which culminated in his brutal ousting during the Nato-led uprising in 2011.

Grabbing power by removing King Idris in a 1969 coup, Gaddafi (who, intriguingly, had followed a military training course in England in 1966) soon became the target of covert operations – many of them launched from Chad – by the French, Americans, Israelis and British.

Stephen Dorril, in his seminal history of M16, records how in 1971 a British plan to invade Libya, release political prisoners and restore the monarchy ended in an embarrassing flop. Nine years later, the head of the French secret service, Alain de Gaigneronde de Marolles, resigned after a French-led plan ended in disaster when a rebellion by Libyan troops in Tobruk was quickly suppressed.

Then, in 1982, away from the glare of the media, Habré, with the backing of the CIA and French troops, overthrew the Chadian government of Goukouni Wedeye. Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame), in his semi-official history of the CIA, reveals that the Chad covert operation was the first undertaken by the new CIA chief William Casey and that, throughout the decade, Libya ranked as high as the Soviet Union as the bête noir of the White House. A report from Amnesty International, Chad: The Habré Legacy, of October 2001, recorded massive military and financial support for the dictator by the US Congress. It added: “None of the documents presented to Congress and consulted by AI covering the period 1984 to 1989 make any reference to human rights violations.”

US official records indicate that funds for the Chad-based covert war against Libya also came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Iraq. The Saudis, for instance, gave $7million to an opposition group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (also backed by French intelligence and the CIA). However, a plan to assassinate Gaddafi and seize power on 8 May 1984 was crushed. In the following year, the US asked Egypt to invade Libya and overthrow Gaddafi but President Mubarak refused. By the end of 1985, the Washington Post had exposed the plan after congressional leaders opposing it wrote in protest to President Reagan.

Frustrated in its covert attempts to topple Gaddafi, the US government’s strategy suddenly shifted. For 11 minutes in the early morning of 14 April 1986, 30 US air force and navy bombers struck Tripoli and Benghazi in a raid code-named El Dorado Canyon.

The US/UK mainstream media were ecstatic. Yet the main purpose of the raid was to kill the Libyan president – dubbed a “mad dog” by Reagan. In the event, the first bomb to drop on Tripoli hit Gaddafi’s home killing Hana, his adopted daughter aged 15 months – while his eight other children and wife Safiya were all hospitalised, some with serious injuries. The president escaped.

Reports of US military action against Libya disappeared from the media after the 1986 assault. But away from the glare of publicity, the CIA launched its most extensive effort yet to spark an anti-Gaddafi coup. A secret army was recruited from among the many Libyans captured in border battles with Chad during the 1980s. And as concerns grew in M16 that Gaddafi was aiming to develop chemical weapons, Britain funded various opposition groups in Libya.

Then in 1990, with the crisis in the Gulf developing, French troops helped oust Habré in a secret operation and install Idriss Déby as the new President of Chad. The French government had tired of Habré’s genocidal policies while George Bush senior’s administration decided not to frustrate France in exchange for co-operation in its attack on Iraq.

Yet, even under Déby, abuses of civil rights by government forces have continued. As Amnesty International’s latest report on Chad comments: “Serious human rights violations continued to take place with almost total impunity. The rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly were frequently violated. Human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists were victims of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention. People, including protesters, were killed by members of the security services during demonstrations.”

Amnesty, in fact, argues that Déby should also be on trial in Dakar. It commented: “Chad’s current president has not been indicted by the Extraordinary African Chambers, but served as Chief of Staff of the army under Habré’s administration. Research undertaken by Amnesty International suggests that troops under his command may have committed mass killings in southern Chad in 1984.”

Chad is currently a key country in US plans for covert military intervention in North Africa. Earlier this year, in March, Chadian forces, including the Special Anti-Terrorist Group (SATG) which has received extensive training and equipment from the US military, invaded northern Nigeria and seized the towns of Malam Fatouri and Damasak, according to an Associated Press report. The Déby regime plays a major role in the US-funded Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership and is helping to coordinate the African Union (AU) multi-national force of some 8,700 troops called for by the AU in January.

Chadian troops fought alongside Western forces during the 2013 French-led invasion of Mali, and the Chadian government has since approved the permanent stationing of thousands of French troops in its capital, N’Djamena.

• Richard Lance Keeble is Professor of Journalism at Lincoln University. He has written and edited 30 books including Secret State, Silent Press (John Libbey; 1997), a study of the US/UK press coverage of the 1991 Gulf conflict.

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