AP (Associated Press) claims & endorses Iranian law banning all media "from providing BBC Persian or VOA Persian any coverage from Iran" and allowing Iranian authorities to "immediately shut down" any so contravening organisation in Tehran
|Abbreviation or term||Meaning|
|Associated Press, headquartered in New York, claims to be "one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering"1, and elsewhere claims to be "the world's oldest and largest news gathering organization".2|
|Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting [Persian: صدا و سیمای جمهوری اسلامی]. The "state organization in charge of domestic and external broadcasting".3|
|Terms which one can encounter in media literature or reports, regarding the Iranian context (amongst other contexts). Examples include:|
|Voice of America Persian News Network. The Persian language branch of Voice of America [Persian: صدای آمریکا], which is "the official external broadcast institution of the US federal government". Formerly called "Farsi Service".5 VOAPNN began broadcasting its radio to Iran in the early 1940s,5 and its satellite television broadcasts started in 2006 (based in Washington DC, with studios in New York City).6 The forms "VOA Farsi" & "VOA Persian" & "VOAPNN" are used interchangeably.7 Farsi is another term for Persian.|
|Part of BBC, which is a broadcaster launched in 1922, and stands for "The British Broadcasting Corporation".8 BBC Persian was launched on 28 December 19409 and BBC Persian TV began broadcasting on 14 January 2009.5|
|"Manoto" literally means "Me & You". It's a Persian-language entertainment channel launched in October 2010, owned by the London-based Marjan Television Network Ltd and is targeted primarily at young adults.10|
|Part of IRIB. Stands for Islamic Republic of Iran News Network.11|
|The English-language satellite channel of IRIB.12|
- Iranian media law as propagated by AP
- Introductory case: footage by IRIB (showing Shahram Amiri) re-used by VOAPNN
- Note regarding slightly differing restrictions
- Discussion and raising questions
- First occurrences of AP's 'NO ACCESS' / 'adhering to Iranian law' warnings (in Iranian context)
- Conflicts of Iran with foreign-based Persian-language media organisations
- Blacklisted by The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran
- Limitation of foreign news by prohibition of satellite antennas since 1995
- BBC Persian seen as illegal since at least February 2009
- Satellite and website jamming
- Arresting co-operating journalists
- Concluding discussion
- Note: Asked AP for clarification on 13 August 2016
Iranian media law as propagated by AP
Introductory case: footage by IRIB (showing Shahram Amiri) re-used by VOAPNNLet's take a look at the interval of the 18th until the 30th second in the following video uploaded by VOAPNN on 26 May 2012, with the title "خبر زندان و تبعید شهرام امیري" which was licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported:13
- 0:18 | Jump to second 18 in the video (on this webpage). Notice the sequence which visually shows a part of an interview with Shahram Amiri (شهرام امیری), which ends around the 30th second.
However, the footage (at AP) shows the following 11-second insert by AP, before the reel starts:
Restrictions: NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN / NO ACCESS VOA PERSIANThe shotlist of the interview is preceded by similar warnings:
Restrictions: NO ACCESS IRAN / BBC PERSIAN / NO ACCESS VOA PERSIANThis then is further clarified as such:
AP Television is adhering to Iranian law that stipulates all media are banned from providing BBC Persian or VOA Persian any coverage from Iran, and under this law if any media violate this ban the Iranian authorities can immediately shut down that organisation in Tehran.14
Note regarding slightly differing restrictionsIt can be noted that, in other footage regarding Iran distributed by AP, any of the following slightly more extensive restrictions may be presented (this list is not exhaustive):
NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN TV SERVICE / NO ACCESS VOA PERSIAN TV / NO MANOTO 115
NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN TV SERVICE / NO ACCESS VOA PERSIAN TV + PART NO ACCESS GERMANY16
It's interesting to note that some of these or similar warnings are repeated within the shotlist of such footage, and then are at times preceded by the source of the relevant video sequence, e.g.:
AP Television is adhering to Iranian law that stipulates all media are banned from providing BBC Persian TV Service or VOA Persian TV any coverage from Iran. Under this law, if any media violate this ban, the Iranian authorities can immediately shut down that organisation in Tehran.17
Discussion and raising questionsThe footage of the presented case is a clear example of "coverage from Iran" (it covers information about an Iranian scientist, as presented in a IRIB studio in Tehran).14
AP presents itself as "adhering to Iranian law" (and carries out such law as a very visible message; thus endorsing it) by not "providing BBC Persian or VOA Persian any coverage from Iran". If AP would do otherwise, it claims, it risks being immediately shut down in Teheran.
It seems very likely to me that AP didn't provide the footage to VOAPNN: that is for the mentioned video uploaded by VOA Farsi on 26 May 2012, with the title "خبر زندان و تبعید شهرام امیري" (since, one can see VOAPNN used only part of the video: it seemingly cropped out all symbolism relating to the IRIB broadcast). Browsing YouTube though, one can encounter emissions by VOAPNN which do show the full-resolution version of the IRIB footage (the VOAPNN logo overlayed on the images being smaller18 or larger19 in different broadcasts). But also for those examples, there is no proof of AP providing the footage (perhaps pointing in the same direction is the IRIB symbolism which stayed present).
I would like to raise the following question:
- Why exactly is it (and is it even) illegal (according to Iranian law, purported by AP) for any "media" to provide "BBC Persian or VOA Persian" with "any coverage from Iran"? Where is the specific law stated, and what are its 'reasons' for adoption?
First occurrences of AP's 'NO ACCESS' / 'adhering to Iranian law' warnings (in Iranian context)Using specific-time range Search Engine (both external, as well as AP's own) queries, I assume the following to be the first occurrences by Associated Press of the following specific text-strings (regardless of capitalization).
[18 May 2000] "NO ACCESS IRAN"In its archive page of the video entitled "IRAN: JEWS CHARGED WITH SPYING TRIAL LATEST" (published by AP on 18 May 2000):
Restrictions: IRIB = No Access Iran
[14 June 2009] "NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN"In its archive page of the video entitled "DV Iran Analyst" (published by AP on 14 June 2009):
Restrictions: NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN TV SERVICE / NO ACCESS VOA PERSIAN TV + PART NO ACCESS GERMANY
[22 April 2010] "AP Television is adhering to Iranian law that stipulates all media are banned from providing BBC Persian or VOA Persian [...]"In its archive page of the video entitled "Iran War Games" (published by AP on 22 April 2010):
AP Television is adhering to Iranian law that stipulates all media are banned from providing BBC Persian or VOA Persian any coverage from Iran, and under this law if any media violate this ban the Iranian authorities can immediately shut down that organisation in Tehran.
[20 February 2012] "NO ACCESS MANOTO 1"In its archive page of the video entitled "IRAN MILITARY" (published by AP on 20 February 2012) (same publishing date as the first occurrence of "NO MANOTO 1", which also concerned footage by IRIB):
IRIB - NO ACCESS IRAN / NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN / NO ACCESS VOA PERSIAN / NO ACCESS MANOTO 1
"[22 April 2010] NO ACCESS MIDEAST"In its archive pages of the videos entitled "Iran - Tribute To Dead Of 1980-88 War" (two videos published on 22 April 2010, of length 00:59 and length 01:09 respectively):
IRANIAN TV - no access Mideast
Conflicts of Iran with foreign-based Persian-language media organisationsThe following are by no means an exhaustive list of all key manifestations of the conflicts. They are meant to give an impression of the frictions.
Blacklisted by The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran
BBC Persian & VOAPNN since at least 4 January 2010 (although reported inaccurately and/or wrongly)On 4 January 2010, a list of 60 organisations were announced as blacklisted by the "Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security". A complete list of the 60 then blacklisted organisations can still be found in Persian on the website of Fars News Agency or akhbar-rooz and in English at IranFacts, Politico or EA WorldView. The address to which was hyperlinked in the Los Angeles Times (namely: a page at the Islamic Republic News Agency) can no longer be consulted.
Looking at the available versions of the list on-line, one has to conclude that BBC Persian & VOA were not mentioned anywhere in the "60" on the list. Nevertheless, this was not clearly (or even wrongly) reported in Western mass media. The Los Angeles Times, in its article about the 60 listed organisations, for example reported:
The Ivy League school joins the ranks of news organizations such as the Persian-language Voice of America and BBC Persian as well as Beltway think tanks such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that have been accused of being part of a "soft war" waged against Iran by its enemies.The Los Angeles Times also paraphrased the author of the discussed report (which was not named in the report), as he had allegedly spoken during a news conference:
"Having any relation, signing any contract with them or receiving any facilities from individuals or legal entities affiliated to those institutions and foundations are illegal and forbidden," he reportedly said. "Similarly it is illegal for political movements, groups and parties to receive any cash and non-cash assistance" from the organizations.20The list was also reported by The Guardian, but again it was insinuated that BBC and VOA were part of the list:
It forbade Iranians from talking to or receiving aid from the proscribed organisations, including the BBC, which last year launched a Farsi satellite television channel, as well as two US government-funded outlets, Voice of America and Radio Farda, both of which broadcast in Farsi.21NBC Connecticut (Yale University; one of the blacklisted organisations; is located in Connecticut) made the same wrong claim, regarding BBC Persian:
Also making the list were the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the BBC Persian, and the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.22Some weeks later, the news was discussed in the University section of Yale Daily News. The same wrong claims (regarding BBC & VOA) were made:
In addition to Yale, the list includes several think tanks, a variety of institutions that promote democracy such as the National Democratic Institute and the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and news outlets such as BBC Persian and the Persian-language Voice of America. Iranians have been told not to have contact with the organizations because they are part of an anti-Iran plot backed by the United States, Great Britain and Israel, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month.23Instead, on 5 January 2016, The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed there were 62 organisations on the blacklist:
The Deputy Minister for International Affairs at Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence issued a list of 62 foreign research centers and media outlets with which any contact by Iranian citizens is forbidden. The list includes Yale University, Brookings Institute, Saban Centre, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, New American Centre Foundation, various Iranian human rights groups, the BBC, VOA and RaheSabz.net.24This Israeli message was shared on at least one Iranian forum25 as well as on a Lebanese one.26
Perhaps a more precise version of the story: Again, looking at the available versions of the list on-line; one has to conclude that neither BBC nor VOA were included in this list. Further more, reportedly there weren't even 60 separate organisations in the blacklist, as multiple organisations were reportedly repeatedly mentioned.2728
Since my Persian skills are non-existent, I will not dig into the Persian on-line versions of the list (and the accompanying announcement by the Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security) mentioned earlier; but will simply quote the English reporting by the Iranian female author behind the blog IranFacts (a blog existing since 2006):
In addition to these 60 (notwithstanding the repeated items), cooperation with VOA, BBC, Radio Zamaaneh, Radio Farda, Radio Israel [...] is considered illegal!27If this is correct, then cooperation with BBC Persian & VOAPNN has indeed become illegal, according to Iranian law (even though they were not part of the "60" listed organisations).
Manoto since early 2013In early 2013, Manoto was added to the "blacklist" of several satellite channels by The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran:
[...] The Ministry [of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran] blacklisted several satellite channels, including Manoto, alleging they were affiliated to the BBC and were part of “the psychological war unit of British government’s spy organisation.29
Note: the United States blacklisted IRIB on 6 February 2013It might be interesting to note that, on 6 February 2013, the United States blacklisted IRIB.30
What about Germany?As shown earlier, the restrictions warnings of Associated Press sometimes include Germany:
NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN TV SERVICE / NO ACCESS VOA PERSIAN TV + PART NO ACCESS GERMANY16My best guess is that this is due to the following phenomenon:
Most of the assets of VOA’s Persian radio service, however, have been transferred to Radio Farda (which is run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich).31See also the jamming of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's satellite signals at Conflicts of Iran with foreign-based Persian-language media organisations > Satellite and website jamming.
Limitation of foreign news by prohibition of satellite antennas since 1995Even though satellite antennas are widely used ...
Incoming foreign news is tightly restricted by a prohibition on satellite antennae introduced in 1995 and prior censorship provisions concerning all foreign publications.32
BBC Persian seen as illegal since at least February 2009By February 2009 (when, in Iran, the leading foreign Persian-language broadcaster was VOA Persian and when ±60% of Iran's population had ±easy access to BBC Persian's satellite broadcasts), BBC Persian was already coined "illegal" in Iran:
Some Iranian officials have termed BBC Persian as an "illegal" channel, and have publicly stated that they will do their utmost to keep its programming from reaching an Iranian audience. Any Iranian inside Iran caught contributing to BBC Persian broadcasts will be punished, and the BBC journalists working for the English-language service in Tehran will be closely monitored, officials have cautioned.33
Satellite and website jammingThe website of BBC's Persian language service was blocked in Iran as early as January 2006.34
On 2 February 2011, BBC released a press statement:
The BBC can confirm that its Persian Television service is being jammed from within Iran following coverage of the political unrest in Egypt.BBC, however, didn't seem so much endorsing the Iranian censorship (very much different than Associated Press), and strongly reacted:
In 2011 and 2012, Eutelsat Communications published several press releases about the Iranian jamming of satellite signals originating outside of Iran:
- Peter Horrocks, Director BBC Global News, said: "This jamming should stop immediately. The events in Egypt are being viewed by the entire world and it is wrong that our significant Iranian audience is being denied impartial news and information from BBC Persian TV. [...]
- "The BBC will not stop covering Egypt and it will continue to broadcast to the Iranian people." The heavy electronic jamming is of satellites the BBC uses in the Middle East to broadcast the BBC Persian TV signal to Iran. Satellite technicians have traced that interference and have confirmed it is coming from Iran. BBC Persian television launched in 2009 and has suffered similar deliberate attempts to interfere with its signal intermittently ever since. BBC Persian TV continues to stream live online.9
17 November 2011 press release about satellite jamming
Eutelsat categorically refutes recent reports that claim it is generating interference to its own satellites in order to prevent reception in Iran of international Farsi satellite channels. These allegations are in total contradiction with reality. They are also totally inconsistent with the statement issued in September by the BBC which associates Eutelsat with their renewed appeal for action by regulatory authorities to combat this violation of international rights.
Over more than two years Eutelsat has publicly condemned intentional jamming of its satellites by third parties, organised to prevent reception of international Farsi channels including BBC Persian, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle. We have identified the location of the jamming from within Iran, and since May 2009, have filed multiple complaints with the relevant French and international regulatory authorities to denounce hostile jamming operations and to prompt the International Telecommunication Union (a United Nations Agency) to address this illegal practice as a priority issue.
Eutelsat maintains a constant dialogue with international Farsi channels and service providers affected by deliberate jamming. The company has repeatedly organised transmissions of these channels through other satellites in its fleet in order to provide the continuity of service that we constantly endeavour to deliver. These efforts are recognised by the BBC, including in their statement of September 7.
Deliberate jamming prevents satellite reception, creates collateral damage for other broadcasters and is contrary to international conventions for the use of satellites. Efforts to combat it are a priority issue for Eutelsat. Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat CEO, says: “In our capacity as a satellite operator we remain committed to defeating this abuse. We call on those of influence to do all they can to impress upon Iran the illegal nature of intentional jamming and the need to cease this activity immediately."35
4 October 2012 press release appealing to international authorities
[...] made a new appeal to international regulatory authorities to urgently intervene in order to put an end to repeated jamming of satellite signals from Iran. This new appeal follows significant deliberate interference from Iran since October 3 of international networks, including BBC Persian, the Voice of America’s Persian service and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda, that broadcast via Eutelsat satellites.
The practice of deliberate interference with broadcast signals is a violation of rules of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Today’s complaint by Eutelsat officially asks the ANFR, France’s national frequency agency, to renew its objection to jamming to the ITU so that it can be addressed as a priority.
This new condemnation and call for action to regulatory authorities follows appeals made by Eutelsat since May 2009 to put an end to unacceptable deliberate jamming of broadcast signals from Iran.36
Eutelsat, which suffers frequent jamming attacks on the Persian-language channels broadcasting from outside Iran, also has a provision of service contract to broadcast Iran’s Press TV, which itself is embroiled in controversy and is known for its frequent failures to report. In addition, Eutelsat also hosts a number of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) channels, including IRIB Quran and the two largest national TV channels. These Iranian channels have never suffered frequency jamming.5The United States Governmental "Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) condemned broadcasting jamming themselves on 3 October 2012, which included the jamming of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda:
3 October 2012 press release
Washington, D.C. — U.S. international broadcasting signals to Iran are once again being jammed, possibly in connection with street demonstrations and arrests there, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors has condemned the resumption of interference in its programming for Iranians.
“The jamming of news delivered by satellite into Iran is an outrage, a deplorable violation of well-established international agreements,” said International Broadcasting Bureau Director Richard M. Lobo. “Freedom of information is a universal human right as well as an essential component for the health of any nation.”
The practice of deliberate interference with broadcast signals, known as “jamming,” is prohibited under rules of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
The most recent interference began on Wednesday, October 3, and affected both video and audio signals of the Voice of America’s Persian Service and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda.
The jamming coincided with reports of street demonstrations and mass arrests of Iranians protesting falling currency exchange rates. Both VOA and RFE/RL report that, in some instances, interference starts just before newscasts, and ends just afterwards.
The jamming affected three satellite transponders operated by Eutelsat and those most popular among Iranian viewers: HotBird 13B, Eutelsat 25A and Eutelsat 7A. Viewers said the signals reappear intermittently, and that less-popular satellites are not impacted.
The interference has affected other U.S. international broadcasting programs on the Eutelsat satellites, including Georgian, Armenian and Balkan-language broadcasts.
VOA and RFE/RL programs continue to be broadcast on diverse media platforms, including digital audio and video streams on other satellite paths and on the Internet.
In February 2012, the ITU called upon the world’s nations to take “necessary actions” to stop intentional interference with satellite transmissions. Earlier, the BBG and other international broadcasters called for action against jamming.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting, whose mission is inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG broadcasts reach an audience of 187 million in 100 countries. BBG networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti).37
International lawThe jamming of (foreign) satellite signals to block particular content is but one example of disruptions where international law is tresspassed by governmental practices:
When the aim of the disruption is to influence or block particular content, the international law regime governing freedom of information across border may come into play. Examples include the 2007 Tamil Tigers rebel group substituting an Intelsat sattelite broadcast of the Sri Lankan government with its own propaganda broadcast; and Iran's disruption of Eutelsat transmissions including BBC Persian, the VOA Persian service and Radio Free Europe's Radio Farda.38
Arresting co-operating journalistsJust to give one example: in 2013, the government of Iran arrested eleven journalists, since they were:
[...] accused of co-operating with foreign Persian-language media organisations as part of a clampdown against the BBC and Voice of America in particular.4
Concluding discussionIn Iranian media law as propagated by AP > Discussion and raising questions, I had raised the following question:
- Why exactly is it (and is it even) illegal (according to Iranian law, purported by AP) for any "media" to provide "BBC Persian or VOA Persian" with "any coverage from Iran"? Where is the specific law stated, and what are its 'reasons' for adoption?
Question remains openThe first retrieved occurrence (note the date) of a restriction by Associated Press stating "NO ACCESS", in relation to Iranian footage, was presented on 18 May 2000, and was coupled to footage by IRIB (see Iranian media law as propagated by AP > First occurrences of AP's 'NO ACCESS' / 'adhering to Iranian law' warnings (in Iranian context)):
Restrictions: IRIB = No Access IranThe first retrieved occurrence (note the date) of Associated Press restricting access to BBC Persian & VOAPNN, was presented on 14 June 2009.
Therefore (considering the noted dates), it seems unlikely that these two restriction warnings of AP were based on the illegality of "cooperation" with VOA & BBC, as presented internationally on 4 January 2010 (see Conflicts of Iran with foreign-based Persian-language media organisations > Blacklisted by The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran > BBC Persian & VOAPNN since at least 4 January 2010 (although reported inaccurately and/or wrongly)).
Nevertheless, the latter could have given rise to the following Iranian media law, as purported by AP (first on 22 April 2010) (see Iranian media law as propagated by AP > [22 April 2010] "AP Television is adhering to Iranian law that stipulates all media are banned from providing BBC Persian or VOA Persian [...]"):
AP Television is adhering to Iranian law that stipulates all media are banned from providing BBC Persian or VOA Persian any coverage from Iran, and under this law if any media violate this ban the Iranian authorities can immediately shut down that organisation in Tehran.Although I can not explain the particularities of this purported law:
- Why only BBC Persian and VOA Persian (and e.g. not Manoto 1, or many others)?
- Why only regarding coverage from Iran?
- Why did AP start propagating it on 22 April 2010?
Cui bono?A further question to ask is: why does AP wants to propagate this asserted law (which, I assume, is certainly against many instances of international law)? What's to gain for them? This propagation and endorsement is certainly not something they share with the VOAPNN (the official broadcasting institution of the federal U.S. government), which as I have demonstrated in the introductory case example (but I think it's safe to assume many more such examples can be found), certainly don't follow this purported law.
Have your cake and eat it tooLastly, I'd wish to note the irony in the following seemingly double attitude.
On the one hand, AP propagates and endorses the illegality of "coverage from Iran" by BBC Persian and VOA Persian (when provided to them: if one takes AP's claim literally).
On the other hand, AP is itself vigorously providing its own "coverage from Iran". I'll illustrate this by an example of AP's news reporting which leads us back to the introductory case: interviews with Shahram Amiri on Iranian television. On 7 August 2016, Associated Press reported the following:
To make it even more ironic: AP also covers itself the reportedly illegal coverage from Iran by e.g. BBC Persian. In the same 7 August 2016 article:
- When he [Shahram Amiri] returned in 2010, he was welcomed with flowers by government leaders and even went on the Iranian talk-show circuit. [...]
- On his return from the U.S., Amiri was greeted at airport by high-ranking government officials and was invited to TV talk shows where he explained how he bypassed a U.S. trap to get home.39
Manoto, a private satellite television channel based in London believed to be run by those who back Iran's ousted shah, reported Saturday that Amiri had been executed. BBC Farsi also quoted Amiri's mother saying her son's neck bore ligature marks suggesting he had been hanged by the state.39
Note: Asked AP for clarification on 13 August 2016
Note:I have notified this article to Associated Press on 13 August 2016, asking for answers to the questions raised in the above Concluding discussion. If you'd wish to contact AP yourself:
Call AP headquarters at 212.621.1500 or email email@example.com for general inquiries.
Feedback, corrections and other requests
AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.40
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کانال یوتیوب تلویزیون صدای آمریکا
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- 13. The video had the following description:
رسانه ها از محکوميت به زندان و تبعيد شهرام اميري به اتهام هاي امنيتی خبر ميدهند, and the following license information: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license page.
▸ https://youtu.be/_tv..., خبر زندان و تبعید شهرام امیري, VOA Farsi [Channel], YouTube, 26 May 2012, Accessed at 10 August 2016.
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