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Middle East Censorship News

2012: Oct-Dec

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Fratriarchal Rule...

Egyptian government said to be plotting total control of the media

Link Here31st December 2012

Egypt's opposition group, the Popular Front, has said that it had laid hands on a leaked document signed by the Muslim Brotherhood's deputy chairman Khairat al-Shater in which he urged the government to claim total control of the media. Shater reportedly also called for shutting down TV channels owned by opposition groups.

Al-Tahreer newspaper reported that Shater even advised his brethren at the helm of Egypt's policy making to find ways to contain the more radical Salafi Islamists. Salafis have strongly stood by the Brotherhood in recent constitutional battles, but the Brotherhood see extremist Islamists as potential future threats.

The powerful businessman of the Brotherhood also urged the shift of all sovereign duties of the ministry of foreign affairs to Dr. Issam Haddad, and discussing the proposal of Dr. Mahmood Ghezlan on cleansing the media from remnants of the departed regime and closing down, gradually, all private TV channels.



Update: An Outrageous Assault on Freedom of Expression...

Egyptian given 3 year jail sentence for reposting the Innocence of Muslims

Link Here30th December 2012
Full story: The Innocence of Muslims...Muslim world gets wound up by silly movie

An Egyptian activist has been sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of defamation of religion , a conviction Amnesty International called an outrageous assault on freedom of expression in Egypt.

The court in Cairo found Alber Saber Ayad guilty of disseminating material on the internet that defamed religions. He is expected to be released on a bail of EGP1,000 (US$160) pending his appeal.

Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and had called for his immediate and unconditional release. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme said:

This is an outrageous verdict and sentence for a person whose only 'crime' was to post his opinions online.

This conviction will ruin his life, whether he serves the sentence or not. The court should have thrown the case out on the first day, yet now he's been branded as having insulted religion.

Alber Saber Ayad was arrested at his home in Cairo on 13 September 2012, after angry groups of men surrounded his house and called for his death, accusing him of heresy and atheism and of promoting the film Innocence of Muslims .



Gambling on Censorship...

Israel drafts law to allow police to block websites without a court order

Link Here19th December 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Israel...Legislation proposed to let police block websites

Israel's Justice Ministry is drafting legislation that would allow the police to block access to child pornography and gambling websites without a court order.

The state is currently awaiting a related Supreme Court ruling on the same issue. The government is appealing a district court ruling concluding that a police power to bar access to physical locations without a court order can be extended to internet websites.

The ministry's bill would allow an authorized police officer to order an ISP to block access to any gambling or pedophilia site. A website could be blocked even if it also conducts legal activity, as long as the illegal activity constitutes more than a marginal portion of its total activity. The police order would be in effect only for a limited time period.

Attorney Jonathan Klinger, an expert in the intersection of law and technology, said that, as written, he didn't think the law could survive a court challenge:

But above all, this is a bill that seeks to bring us down to the level of countries like Qatar, Pakistan, Iran, China and others. We have yet to see any country in the world that has censorship but doesn't use it for political purposes.



Update: Badr Preacher...

TV preacher jailed for defamation after accusing Egypt's leading film actress of inciting immorality through wearing sexy clothes

Link Here19th December 2012
Full story: Blasphemy in Egypt...Unswaying belief in injustice

An Egyptian court has sentenced TV preacher Abdullah Badr to one year in prison and set the bail at 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($3240) for defaming prominent Egyptian actress Elham Shaheen, Egyptian's daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

Badr, a preacher at Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque, accused Shaheen of committing indecent acts in her movies and wearing seductive clothes that incite immorality. He criticized the actress during his TV show on the Egyptian El-Hafez channel, saying that Elham Shaheen is cursed and she will never enter heaven .

In response, Shaheen filed a lawsuit against Badr and the channel's head Atef Abdel Rashed, accusing them of incitement, spreading chaos, disturbing public security and committing blasphemy.

In recent months, several public figures have filed lawsuits against religious preachers accusing them of defamation.

Update: Appeal turned down

17th February 2013. See  article from

the administrative court rejects an appeal on Saturday by Sheikh Abdullah Badr and Atef Abdel-Rashid, the owner Al-Hafez religious channel, against a ruling on 12 January that barred Badr's programme Fi Al-Mizan for 30 days.



Update: No Love for the Proposed Constitution...

Egypt bans romantic music from state TV and radio.

Link Here15th December 2012

Egypt has banned the broadcasting of any romantic songs or video clips on its 23 state-owned channels, only allowing patriotic music, the state-run Ahram Arabic website said.

Only patriotic tunes that are worth broadcasting will be allowed, al-Ahram reported.

Sarcastic songs mocking public figures will be also banned because of the sensitiveness of the political situation, it said. The sharia based constitution is up for approval in a referendum is proving unappetising for many, particularly those not of a muslim persuasion who weren't even consulted on the issue.



Update: Hostages to Censorship...

Iranian writers call for an end to book censorship

Link Here15th December 2012
Full story: Book Censors in Iran...Iranian literary censors

100 Iranian writers, poets, and translators have called for an end to book censorship.

The call was made in an open letter published on December 2 on the Pendar website that calls for an end to the requirement that writers obtain authorization from the Culture Ministry before publishing.

The needed authorization is increasingly difficult to obtain, according to writers and publishers, who say censorship has intensified in the Islamic republic in recent years.

The group of intellectuals includes prominent poet Simin Behbahani and writer Mohammad Ghaed. In the letter, they write:

Iran is one of the rare countries in the beginning of the 21st century where authors have to ask for a license from the state in order to publish their books, even though the requirement is not stated in the constitution.

In reality, this method amounts to hostage taking of freedom of expression, creativity, and the livelihood of writers by the government in order to impose its ideas on the authors.

The call for an end to book censorship is likely to fall on deaf ears among Iranian authorities who are openly supportive of censorship. Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini has been quoted as saying that censoring books is not an obstacle but a necessity.



Update: Extreme Blasphemy Penalties...

Kuwait parliament approves death penalty for insulting religious characters

Link Here13th December 2012

Kuwaiti MPs this week approved a law with a death penalty for Muslims who insult the religious characters of God, Mohammed and his wives or the Koran. Non-Muslims who commit the same offence face a jail term of not less than 10 years, according to the bill.

Defendants who repent in court will be spared capital punishment but will get a jail sentence for five years and/or a fine of $36,000, while repentance by those who repeat the crime is not acceptable, the bill says.

Opposition MP Ali al-Deqbasi said during the debate:

We do not want to execute people with opinions or thought because Islam respects these people. ..BUT... we need this legislation because incidents of cursing God have increased. We need to deter them,

The bill becomes effective after the government accepts it, the emir signs it and it is published in the official gazette within one month.

Shiite MP Abdulhameed Dashti said the bill was unconstitutional and against the principles of Islam:

Why are we trying to show Islam as a religion of death and blood when it is actually the opposite of that?



Dangerous Poetry...

Qatar imprisons man for life over his Arab Spring poetry

Link Here2nd December 2012

Qatari poet Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami was sentenced to life in prison for writing and performing a poem celebrating Tunisia's Arab Spring.

The poet's lawyer, who is appealing the decision, has said that the trial was held in secret, the poet was not allowed to defend himself or even to enter a plea. According to an article in The Guardian, Ajami was charged with insulting the Gulf nation's ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and inciting to overthrow the ruling system , a crime punishable by death.

The poem came to public attention after a video was posted on Youtube. Ajami has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in November 2011.



Update: Symbolic Nastiness...

Egypt sentences absent Americans to death for charges associated with the Innocence of Muslims

Link Here29th November 2012
Full story: The Innocence of Muslims...Muslim world gets wound up by silly movie

The California man behind the Innocence of Muslims, the movie that wound up violent thugs in the Middle East, was sentenced to death in absentia in an Egyptian court.

Mark Basseley Youssef was among the seven Egyptian Coptic Christians as was Terry Jones, the Florida-based American pastor associated with burning Korans.

The case was seen as largely symbolic because the defendants, most of whom live in the United States, are all outside Egypt and unlikely to ever serve the sentences.

Egypt's official news agency said the court found the defendants guilty of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information, charges that carry the death sentence.



Making a Mockery of Free Speech...

UAE presidential decree introduces further repressive restrictions on internet websites

Link Here25th November 2012

The United Arab Emirates has tightened its law on internet use, making it a criminal offence to mock its rulers or organise unauthorised demonstrations.

A presidential decree says anyone who creates or runs a website or uses the internet to deride or damage the state or its institutions faces imprisonment. The institutions include the rulers and senior officials across the federation of seven semi-autonomous Gulf emirates.

Activists have criticised the move as a further restriction to freedom of speech. The authorities have also been accused of deporting and harassing human rights defenders, denying legal assistance to political detainees, and intimidating and deporting lawyers seeking to assist detainees.

The amendments to the UAE's existing law on internet crime focus on issues such as online fraud, privacy protection, and restrictions on prostitution, pornography and gambling. However, a major section imposes restrictions on online dissent. The legislation now stipulates:

penalties of imprisonment on any person who creates or runs an electronic website or uses any information technology medium to deride or damage the reputation or stature of the state or any of its institutions.

The minimum prison sentence will be three years. Foreign nationals will also be deported. The law also prohibits information, news, caricatures or any other kind of pictures that authorities believe could threaten security or public order .



Update: Consistent with Repressive Values...

Egyptian state prosecutor orders the blocking of all internet porn

Link Here20th November 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Egypt...Egypt blocks political and porn websites

Increasing influence of Islamist groups within Egypt has led to state prosecutor, Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, ordering the blocking of all pornographic pictures or scenes inconsistent with the repressive values and traditions of the Egyptian people.

The prosecutor cited a 2009 that ordered all porn sites to be banned, and another this March, when an Egyptian judge decreed that all pornography on the internet was illegal.

Critics of the rise of Islamic parties in the country warn that the move will inevitably be a pretext to censor other speech, as well. Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American activist, tweeted: '

I'm not arguing with anyone about porn but know this: 'ban' porn sites today, ban your sites tomorrow.'



The Atheist...

Egypt's first film about atheism gets the film censor's blessing

Link Here19th November 2012

After a long wait, Al-Molhid (The Atheist), an Egyptian film directed by Nader Seif Eddin and inspired by a true story, has gained the support and approval of Al-Azhar University, and has been passed by the Egyptian censorship committee without cuts.

The film was referred to Al-Azhar by the censorship committee for a final verdict on its release. Following Al-Azhar's approval, the committee passed the film uncut.

Despite its approval by authorities, the team behind the film has been receiving death threats from extremists in the country. Film producer Adham Afifi said:

We finished filming two months ago and by that time I had full approval of the script, and I was very pleased. I was surprised shortly afterwards when I received threatening phone calls, in addition to Facebook pages opposing the film's release.

But I am determined to release Al-Molhid and am currently negotiating with a number of cinemas for a screening during the upcoming winter-break.

Of course the film was only allowed on condition of depicting atheism as inferior to religion.

The film, the first in the history of Egyptian cinema to discuss atheism, tells the story of a preacher who has an atheist son and keeps trying to talk him into changing his mind. The preacher is also the presenter of a religious program on a satellite channel and starts becoming the laughing stock of viewers after his son's beliefs become known. He get calls on air telling him he is not fit for preaching since he is unable to make his son believe in God.

In order to avoid criticism by Islamists, Seif al-Din has said that the film presents a strong argument about the existence of God and against atheism. According to Seif al-Din, The Atheist is not against religion as some might guess from the name, but is the exact opposite. Seif al-Din explained that through discussing the problem of atheism, the film stresses the importance of faith and the evidence of the existence of God.



Stereotypically Censorial...

Steve Bell reported to the PCC over cartoon inspired by skewed coverage of attack on Gaza

Link Here17th November 2012

The Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has been harangued for a cartoon about Israel's attack on Gaza.

A cartoon appearing in Friday's paper, shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a puppet-master, controlling tiny versions of Foreign Secretary William Hague and Tony Blair.

It was published after Hague said that Hamas bore principal responsibility for the military operation .

Bell explained that the cartoons of Hague and Blair were a side issue to inspiration drawn from a press conference given by Netanyahu in front of numerous Israeli flags. Bell added that he had chosen to draw the cartoon because:

the coverage of Operation Pillar of Defence has been so skewed in favour of the Israeli side, particularly I regret to say on the BBC, that I do personally feel quite a strong need to make the counter argument.

Barrister Jeremy Brier lodged a complaint about Steve Bell's drawing with the Press Complaints Commission claimed that the image was plainly antisemitic.



Qatar Recommends...

The Boys by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson and Russ Braun

Link Here25th October 2012

Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson and Russ Braun's The Boys is a comic book series that makes a point out of mining the darker underbelly of the superhero genre, in the process exposing more violent and sexual elements than many are comfortable with... including, it seems, one Middle Eastern country which has apparently banned the series after a reader tried to have copies shipped to her.

The Qatar Ministry of Culture have confiscated a shipment of the books, labeling it sexual material and, as such, too offensive to be allowed into the country.

The recipient went to the Ministry of Culture and found The Boys now live in a box labeled BANNED. The authorities pointed out the pages that they found offensive (all of them).



Offsite Article: Yes, I'm a blasphemer. Get over it...

Link Here21st October 2012
The Egyptian General Prosecutor has decided to start an official investigation accusing me of blasphemy, or, as they call it, insulting Islam. My crime was expressing my atheist beliefs on my Twitter account. By Maikel Nabil Sanad

See article from



Lebanon Recommends...

US TV series, Homeland

Link Here20th October 2012

A Lebanese minister has threatened to sue the makers of hit US TV series Homeland for misrepresenting Beirut in a recent episode of the show.

Back to Beirut , the second episode in the new series of Homeland showed a terrorist meeting on Hamra Street, a Hezbollah stronghold. The episode was actually shot in Israel.

Lebanese Tourism Minister Faddy Abboud claimed filming did not depict reality :

It was not filmed in Beirut and does not portray the real image of Beirut. It showed Hamra Street with militia roaming in it.

He added that the real Hamra Street was actually a popular neighbourhood of shops and cafes.

Abboud claims that the depiction of the city could have a negative impact on tourism:

This kind of film damages the image of Lebanon - it is not fair to us and it is not true.

We want to take action, we want to write to the filmmakers and producers and demand an apology. And we are planning to raise a lawsuit against the director and the producer.

Abboud was also offended that filming for the episode took place in Israel rather than Beirut itself. But filming in Beirut would have been difficult since Homeland's co-creator, Gideon Raff, is Israeli and Israel's citizens are barred from visiting the city.



No News is Bad News...

BBC World News jammed in Syria

Link Here20th October 2012

BBC World News and other international broadcasters are being deliberately jammed by forces inside Syrian, according to the corporation's foreign editor.

Jon Williams said that the BBC's international TV network was being blocked:

BBC World News [is] being deliberately jammed from within Syria. Unclear who responsible, but blatant violation of international TV regulations.

A statement frm the BBC said:

The BBC, together with a number of other broadcasters, is experiencing deliberate, intermittent interference to its transmissions to audiences in Europe and the Middle East. Impacted services include the BBC World News and BBC Arabic television channels and BBC World Service radio services in English and Arabic.

Deliberate interference such as the jamming of transmissions is a blatant violation of international regulations concerning the use of satellites and we strongly condemn any practice designed to disrupt audiences' free access to news and information.



Update: Propaganda Censored...

Hotbird satellite kicks off Iranian channels including Press TV

Link Here19th October 2012
Full story: Press TV...Political censoship merges with TV censorship

Arqiva and Eutelsat have jointly agreed to terminate broadcasts via Eutelsat's Hot Bird satellites of channels belonging to Iran. Ten TV channels in total were switched off on Monday, October 15.

The move includes Iran's international English langauge news channel Press TV, as well as the Arabic news channel Al-Alam.

The Paris based satellite operator said in a statement:

This decision was based on reinforced EU Council sanctions and a confirmation by France's broadcasting authority that the Sahar 1 TV channel that broadcast in IRIB's multiplex of television and radio services should be permanently switched off. IRIB has been informed of the termination of its contract. Transmissions consequently ceased this morning through the Hot Bird transponder.

The removal of the channels affect viewers in Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East but not Iran.

Update: Censors Complain when their Propaganda is Censored

19th October 2012. See  article from

Denouncing the hypocritical Western suppression of free speech, hypocritical Iranian media officials expressed 'outrage' over a decision by Europe's largest satellite providers to cease transmission of Iran's 19 state-operated satellite television and radio channels that broadcast to Europe and parts of the Middle East.

The decision came as the European Union expanded its list of sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program. The satellite blackout has deprived the Iranian channels of an audience abroad that represents 200 million households.

Without mentioning Iran's censorship of many Western media outlets, the official Iranian reaction was that Europe had attacked its own values of freedom of speech. Ezzatollah Zarghami, the head of Iran's state-run radio and television organization, said:

They must understand the time of censorship is over. They want to prevent our views from being heard, but they will fail.



Update: Nutter Dischord...

Famed Turkish pianist on trial for a Twitter insult

Link Here19th October 2012
Full story: Blasphemy in Turkey...Blasphemy repressing Turkish people

World-famous Turkish pianist Fazil Say has appeared in court in Istanbul charged with inciting hatred and insulting the values of Muslims.

The indictment against him cites some of his tweets from April, including one where he says:

I am not sure if you have also realised it, but if there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, it's always an Islamist.

Dozens of the pianist's supporters gathered outside the courthouse with banners, one of which called on the ruling Islamist-based AK Party to leave the artists alone .Say has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and others, and has served as a cultural ambassador for the EU.

Egemen Bagis, Turkey's minister in charge of relations with the EU, suggested the case against him should be dismissed, saying the court should regard his tweets as being within his right to babble ...BUT... Bagis also criticised the pianist for insulting people's faith and values .

Update: Court Report

23rd November  2012. See  article from

Fasil Say appeared in an Istanbul court on October 18 and was charged with hate speech and insulting religion for Twitter messages mocking the conduct and beliefs of Islamic fundamentalists.

In one tweet, he commented on a muezzin, who calls Muslims to prayer, for his hurried style. Apparently reflecting his distaste for the spread of fundamentalism in Turkey, Say tweeted a complaint about a call to prayer that lasted only 22 seconds, and added, Why such haste? Do you have a mistress or a glass of raki [Turkish liquor] waiting?

In another message, he quoted the classical Persian poet Omar Khayyam, who asked if heaven should be considered a tavern or whorehouse, since it is described in the Koran as a place where wine is served by virgins.

A third tweet by Say remarked, I am not sure if you have also realized it, but if there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, it is always an Islamist.

The Turkish prosecutors in the case argued that Say's tweets threatened public order. Say's case was adjourned until next February.

About 100 people demonstrated against his indictment in front of the court in Istanbul, and members of the German Bundestag from across the political spectrum expressed their concern at the repressive attitude of the Erdogan regime. Many prominent Turkish personalities, including Egemen Bagis, Erdogan's cabinet minister for relations with the European Union, have also called for the case to be dismissed.



Immature Democracy...

Kuwaiti TV presenter on trial for an 'affront to decency' over a sex related current affairs programme

Link Here14th October 2012

Yusra Muhammad had no idea she would be put on trial for her program Fi al-Sameem (Straight to the Heart), shown on the Kuwaiti Al-Yawm channel. The program tackles many issues, including physical and sexual violence against women in Arab societies, sex tourism and prostitution.

All of a sudden, the media ministry in Kuwait began legal proceedings against the presenter, accusing the program of being an affront to decency. The controversy seems to have arisen about an episode, in which Yusra dealt with underage prostitution, which was aired last February. The media ministry seems to have just woken up to it.

A twitter stream has been set up by journalists and intellectuals to champion the Kuwaiti presenter, a supporter wrote:

Your and your program's misfortune is that it came at a time dominated by politics and religion. It is not a cultural or intellectual period. Politics is the AIDS of thought and culture.

Another supporter pointed out that:

the [political] current behind the case is famous for sanctioning marriage to underage girls.

It seems that words such as virgin, underage girls, sex tourism and legal prostitution have upset the Kuwaiti censor. In a phone conversation with Al-Akhbar, Yusra Muhammad said: 

Before the lawsuit, a discussion of my program in parliament was led by the Islamic parties. This persuaded the media ministry to accuse me of 'affronting decency.' Now the case has come to trial.

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information issued a statement maintaining that the lawsuit is:

a clear violation of the freedom of the media and a continuation of the moves witnessed lately in Kuwait to curtail freedoms. These include the pursuit of bloggers on social networking sites, the suppression of peaceful demonstrations and the shutting down of satellite channels. This is against the essence of democracy and the modern state, elements of which Kuwait enjoyed until recently.

Yusra will appear before a Kuwaiti court on November 6.



Update: Bad and Badr...

Egyptian filmmakers fear the imposition of religious censorship

Link Here8th October 2012
Full story: Blasphemy in Egypt...Unswaying belief in injustice

A Debate over artistic freedom of expression in Egypt has involved Egyptian movie star Elhaam Shaheen.

Known to take on roles that push cultural taboos, Shaheen fears that she and other artists are in for worsening trouble from the country's new Islamic government. She said in a recent interview:

I feel this is a big war between all the artists and writers and Islamists. This is not just against women, it is against all artists.

Last month, conservative Salafi TV personality Sheikh Abdullah Badr, who has blasted actors before over what he describes as blasphemous behavior, called the actress's film performances as on-air adultery and recommended the arts be subjected to religious censorship. Badr ludicrously claimed that Shaheen's type of acting was sinful and would bar her entry to heaven in the afterlife.

Muslim preachers have also been excoriating the pop love songs of legendary Egyptian musicians Om Kalthoum and Abdel Halim Imam. Islamist lawyers with ties to political parties also charged comedian Adel Iman and several other filmmakers and screenwriters with blasphemy against Islam earlier this year for roles in films that are at least 10 years old. Comedian Iman was eventually handed down a sentence of three months of jail time plus a fine before his appeal was granted in September. Similar court cases were thrown out by judges in April.

Shaheen is now fighting back against religious oppression. As an open critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, Shaheen says she is being subjected to politicized attacks. She plans to take Badr and conservative television station El-Hafez to court over the derogatory comments against Egypt's entertainment sector.

During the Sept. 17-22 Luxor Egyptian and European Film Festival she led an impassioned panel of her peers on censorship and freedom of expression. Shaheen was joined by famous Egyptian writer Baha Taher, as well as director and screenwriter Daoud Abdel Sayed and actors Amr Waked, Khaled Abounaga and Laila Elwi.

Shaheen described attacks on Egyptian artists including herself as barbaric and a signal that Egypt is moving backward culturally. She said she was glad she could push back with the support of the Egyptian film community and fans from around the Arab region.

Hany Fawzy, the well-known screenwriter, has also attracted religious censure over his script for Baheb Es-Sinema (I Love the Movies) about a Coptic Christian family. Fawzy added that he has about five scripts ready for production, but he hasn't been able to find producers willing to take a chance. There is a risk. We are fearful about the future, the rules and the Islamic direction [the country is taking]. But we have to continue. It's our career and our work, he said.

President Mohammed Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who took office in June, has sought to allay fears. In September, he met with a group of film industry members at the Presidential Palace to show his concern for protecting the arts. He has also condemned Badr's verbal attacks on Shaheen.



Offsite Article: Iran steps up its campaign against the press...

Link Here6th October 2012
Full story: Press Freedom in Iran...As if there were any
In a flurry of anti-press actions in Iran, a jury has voted to convict a Reuters bureau chief on anti-state charges while authorities have jailed the head of the official news agency, blocked Google services, and shut one reformist newspaper.

See article from

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