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Media Matters: December 17, 2001


17 December 2001, Volume 1, Number 42
AZERBAIJAN
JOURNALISTS LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE. Three journalists with the opposition daily "Yeni Musavat" began a hunger strike on 7 December to protest an attack the previous day on one of their female colleagues, Turan reported. Two more journalists joined the protest on 10 December. The edition of "Yeni Musavat" for 10 December failed to appear as no publishing house would agree to print it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

POLICE FORCIBLY DISPERSE JOURNALISTS' PROTEST. Armed police in Baku forcibly broke up an unsanctioned demonstration by journalists on 12 December outside the headquarters of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, Turan reported. Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," and three other journalists were detained by police. The journalists were protesting official harassment of the staff of "Yeni Musavat" and two other newspapers, "Azadlyg" and "Hurriyet." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

JOURNALISTS DEMAND ASYLUM IN UNITED STATES... Following the brutal attack by police on 12 December on the estimated 50 participants of an unsanctioned demonstration to protest harassment of opposition newspapers, the entire staff of the newspaper "Azadlyg" has asked U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson to grant them political asylum in the U.S., Turan reported. Baku Deputy Police Chief Yashar Aliyev told that agency the same day that the police intervention was justified as the demonstration was illegal, and that three journalists detained have been released. One of the 26 journalists beaten by police has been hospitalized with a severe concussion. Editors of independent media outlets submitted a request on 12 December to Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov for permission to hold a further protest demonstration on 20 December at any one of five suggested locations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

...AS INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG COMPLAINS TO AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT. In a letter addressed to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on 13 December, Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) expressed concern both at the brutal police treatment of protesting journalists in Baku the previous day, and at infringements on media freedom in recent weeks, Turan reported. RSF General Secretary Robert Menard reminded Aliyev of his pledge during a 6 December meeting with U.S. Ambassador Wilson that he is the guarantor of press freedom in Azerbaijan and demanded that all pressures and aggression against the press be halted immediately. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

BULGARIA
TELEVISION CHIEF DISMISSED. On 6 December, the Electronic Media Council voted five to four to dismiss Bulgarian National Television Director Lili Popova, BTA and AP reported. The council said Popova does not meet the requirements of a recently passed amendment to the Media Law that stipulates that the state television chief must have at least five years experience as a TV journalist. Popova had no TV experience when she was appointed to the post three years ago, but the requirement did not exist at that time. She said she will appeal the council's decision in court, arguing that laws do not apply retroactively. The council appointed Kiril Gotsev, who was Popova's deputy, as acting head of state television. Popova was considered to be loyal to former Premier Ivan Kostov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December)

CZECH REPUBLIC
PRAGUE COURT HEEDS ZEMAN APPEAL AGAINST JOURNALIST'S SUIT. The Prague High Court on 6 December heeded an appeal by Premier Milos Zeman against the ruling of a lower instance court that he must pay 300,000 crowns ($8,099) in damages to journalist Ivan Brezina, whom Zeman had accused of corruption, CTK reported. Brezina said he will appeal the decision before the Supreme Court. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December)

GEORGIA
JAPANESE JOURNALIST RELEASED. A Japanese journalist reported missing after setting out in June to travel from Georgia to Chechnya was freed in the Pankisi gorge in eastern Georgia on 7 December, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December)

HUNGARY
ETHICAL GUIDELINES FOR BROADCASTERS. "The Visegrad Guidelines," a set of ethical guidelines for Hungarian broadcast journalists, was published in Hungarian and English, and produced by BMC Training, which is part of the Baltic Media Center, an international media development foundation. Among the topics of the recent publication are editorial independence, balanced reporting, reporting on minorities, politics, terrorism, and violence. Funded by the British Embassy, it is planned that senior Hungarian journalists will produce and finance this work in future years. For more information, contact Charles Fletcher at charliefletcher@yahoo.co.uk or see http://www.bmc.dk/ (International Journalists' Network, 10 December)

ESTONIA
HIGH RATING FOR PUBLIC-SECTOR WEB ACCESS. A poll carried out in 27 countries by Emor and its partner firms showed that in terms of public-sector Internet services, Estonia is the most developed country in Central and Eastern Europe, BNS reported on 13 November. The poll revealed that one in four residents of Estonia aged 15 to 74 had used the services of state and/or government institutions via the Internet. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 5 December)

KYRGYZSTAN
KYRGYZSTAN RESTRICTS MEDIA ACCESS TO INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON TERRORISM. Kyrgyz authorities took unprecedented security measures during the two-day "International Conference on Enhancing Security and Stability in Central Asia; Strengthening Comprehensive Efforts to Counter Terrorism" that began in Bishkek on 13 December. No journalists are allowed to attend the conference. Information on the conference was provided only by the Kyrgyz state news agency, Kabar. Although live TV coverage of the conference was promised on 13 December, only the opening ceremony was covered. The government of Kyrgyzstan had organized the conference under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 13 December)

LITHUANIA
MEDIA OUTLETS, BOOKS TO BE TAXED. The Lithuanian parliament passed a bill on 22 November which will place a 9 percent value-added-tax (VAT) on medicines, medical products, books, mass media, special infant food, hotel services, water supply and sewerage, waste removal, and undertaker services, BNS reported. Some of these goods and services were exempt from VAT while others were subject to an earlier 18 percent rate. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 13 December)

MONTENEGRO
JOURNALIST JAILED FOR SLANDERING PRESIDENT... Vladislav Asanin, the former editor of the Podgorica daily "Dan", was jailed on 7 December for three months after being convicted of libeling Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. The court ruled that Vladislav Asanin was guilty of premeditated "slander through the press" over an extended period. The charges arose from a private suit brought by Djukanovic, and is related to reports that ran originally in the Zagreb weekly "Nacional" and re-printed in "Dan" concerning the so-called "Balkan tobacco mafia," with which Djukanovic is alleged to have illegal business dealings. ("ANEM Media Update," 1-7 December)

...AND JOURNALISTS REACT. Journalists should not be jailed for slander, the head of the Association of Montenegrin Professional Journalists said on 7 December. Danilo Burzan commented on the imprisonment of "Dan" editor Vladislav Asanin after being convicted of slander against the Montenegrin president. Burzan said he would try to ensure that such crimes would no longer be a criminal offense. Budo Simonovic, who leads the Alliance of Yugoslav Journalists, said that the imprisonment of Asanin was a political trial. The head of the Association of Montenegrin Journalists, Vlatko Vujovic, described the jailing of Asanin as the most shameful decision passed by the Montenegrin judiciary in the past half century. ("ANEM Media Update," 1-7 December)

ROMANIA
PARLIAMENT REJECTS REPORT ON PUBLIC RADIO. The Romanian parliament's joint session on 12 December rejected the report of the state-owned public radio's administration council for the year 2000, Mediafax reported. Culture Commission Chairman Senator Adrian Paunescu said the radio's administration council has been dismissed. The opposition National Liberal Party, Democratic Party, and Greater Romania Party boycotted the vote, arguing that the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) had already made up its mind on dismissing the council beforehand. They accused the PSD of trying to gain control of public radio. Radio administration council Chairman Andrei Dimitriu said there are "no real reasons" for dismissing the council, which, despite some mistakes had a good record overall. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

EMBASSY IN SOFIA LAUNCHES VOLUME ON VLACH MINORITY. A book on the Vlach minority in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and other countries in the region, was presented on 10 December at the Romanian Embassy in Sofia, Romanian Radio reported. The publishing of the book on the Vlachs, who speak a Romance language close to Romanian, was sponsored by the National Foundation for Romanians From Everywhere. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

RUSSIA
COURT ASKED TO GIVE ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALIST NINE YEARS IN PRISON. The military prosecutor in charge of the espionage case against former military journalist Grigorii Pasko demanded on 13 December that the court give Pasko a nine-year prison term, ITAR-TASS reported. Pasko has been accused of collecting classified information about the Pacific Fleet and passing it on to Japanese journalists. This is Pasko's second trial. The court in Vladivostok has adjourned until 17 December, when Pasko's lawyers will make their arguments. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

INTERIOR MINISTRY CONFIRMS INTERNATIONAL WARRANT OUT FOR BEREZOVSKY... Viktor Prokopov, the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for Criminal Investigation, said that his agency has opened a criminal case against embattled entrepreneur and media mogul Boris Berezovsky and issued an international warrant for his arrest, rosbalt.ru reported on 11 December. He added that the whereabouts of Berezovsky abroad is well-known, and that it is up to the Prosecutor-General's Office to decide how to proceed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

...AND WHAT IS BEHIND POSSIBLE LIQUIDATION OF BEREZOVSKY'S TV-6? For more, see "TV-6: Another Court Ruling Threatens Independent Media" ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 11 December) and "Will TV-6 Go out with a Bang or a Whimper?" ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 10 December)

PAVLOVSKII CUTS TIES TO HIS INTERNET MEDIA OUTLETS. Gleb Pavlovskii, head of the Foundation for Efficient Politics, announced on 12 December that "due to forced and insuperable circumstances, the Foundation for Efficient Politics is winding up its cooperation with its Internet media outlets, strana.ru, SMI.ru, vesti.ru, and others. In the next few days the ownership of these resources will be reorganized and officially transferred to another party," reported strana.ru on 13 December. In a gazeta.ru interview, Pavlovskii claimed that this move is due to his desire "not to complicate cooperation between investors [whom he refused to name] and the mass media outlets." He said that the Foundation for Efficient Politics (FEP) also "has difficult relations with investors" but not with the state authorities. Pavlovskii said that "investors over-exaggerate my role in public polemics between public figures." He also claimed that FEP will not have access to these media outlets and that the journalists and FEP staff will have to choose with which organization they want to work in the future. (strana.ru and gazeta.ru, 13 December)

'ITOGI' SUCCESSOR HITS THE STANDS. A new weekly by members of the staff of "Itogi" has appeared on newsstands in Moscow, TV-6 reported on 10 December. The new weekly, "Yezhenedelnii Zhurnal," is edited by Sergei Parkhomenko, the former editor of "Itogi" before it was taken over by Gazprom-Media in April 2001. Parkhomenko promised that the new publication will have "plenty" of political coverage, but that the amount will vary from issue to issue. Parkhomenko commented: "Modern politics embrace something much greater and much more varied than mere political or cadre intrigues. It is this kind of politics, politics understood broadly, that we shall mostly be writing about." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CONFISCATED IN NORTH OSSETIA. The entire 10,000 print run of the most recent issue of the opposition newspaper "Pravda Osetii" was seized by police on the border between Ingushetia and North Ossetia, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 12 December, quoting Editor Saukuz Aguzarov. The whole edition was devoted to materials criticizing the republic's present leadership, including President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, who is running for a second presidential term in a ballot scheduled for 27 January 2002. Aguzarov said pressure on his paper has intensified to the point where it can no longer be printed in North Ossetia. After having used publishing houses in Stavropol Krai and Voronezh, the three most recent issues of "Pravda Osetii" were printed in Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

'NEZAVISIMAYA' TO CLOSE CIS DESK. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Tatyana Koshkareva and Director Rustam Narzikulov have decided to close the daily's desk specializing on CIS affairs, effective in February 2002, gazetasng.ru reported on 6 December. The recent resignation of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" Deputy Editor Alan Kasaev, who ran the CIS desk, prompted the decision. Since the mid-1990s, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" has published more about CIS issues than virtually any other newspaper in the former Soviet Union. The daily's main financial backer, Boris Berezovsky, served as deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council from October 1996 until November 1997 and as CIS executive secretary from April 1998 until March 1999. Koshkareva and Narzikulov have run "Nezavisimaya gazeta" since Berezovsky sacked founding Editor In Chief Vitalii Tretyakov in June 2001. In explaining his departure, Kasaev cited his opposition to the daily's "editorial policy and changes in the newspaper's political line." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

ELECTION LARGESS DROWNING MEDIA INDEPENDENCE? The November issue of the magazine, "Sreda," published a seven-point platform for journalists during elections -- such as being responsible to the public interest, condemning the use of smear tactics, and promising to be objective and impartial. Nevertheless, the "Sreda" editor asserts in "The Moscow Times," one of the "tragic paradoxes of Russian life in this period of democratic transition is that elections have become one of the chief impediments to creating a truly free, independent, and commercially viable press" due to the vast sums thrown at the media during elections at the national, regional, and local levels. The editor claims that "neither legislative restrictions nor the state of the economy have any effect" on the money made available to media during election campaigns and that "journalists and the political consultants think up highly refined gray and black schemes for getting their share of the cash." A predictable result of this financial windfall is that "a general system of corruption takes hold." (www.internews.ru/sreda, "The Moscow Times," 11 December)

SERBIA
JOURNALIST THREATENED. The editor of "Kepes Ifijusag," a Hungarian-language magazine published in Novi Sad, claimed on 3 December to have been threatened after publishing an article from the paper "Feral Tribune" on Eduardo Flores. Flores was the commander of the International Platoon active at the start of the war in Croatia. Attila Szabo Palocz claims that Flores sent him a letter with a death threat. ("ANEM Media Update," 1-7 December)

NEW STATE MEDIA OFFICIAL MAY RESIGN. After only a month on the job, Bojana Lekic may leave her position as head of current affairs for Radio Television Serbia, claims the People's Justice Party as quoted by the 5 December daily "Reporter." The party's "reliable" source says that Lekic is unhappy about interference by officials and resistance to her efforts to change the state media's compliant attitude to the government. ("ANEM Media Update," 1-7 December)

LOCAL CONTROL OVER NAMING STATE MEDIA OFFICIALS. The appointment of senior executives to Radio Television Novi Sad will be carried out according to the law, but the Vojvodina parliament will be given an opportunity to approve them, Deputy Serbian Prime Minister Zarko Korac said on 5 December. Korac said that the provincial assembly could either agree to the Belgrade appointments or call for new applications. ("ANEM Media Update," 1-7 December)

RADIO YUGOSLAVIA TO BROADCAST RADIO FRANCE INTERNATIONAL. As of 10 December, YU Radio, part of the federal public broadcaster Radio Television Yugoslavia, will rebroadcast current affairs programs of Radio France International, it was announced on 7 December. Radio France International and Radio Yugoslavia are expected to develop other business and technical cooperation in the future. ("ANEM Media Update," 1-7 December)

TURKMENISTAN
INTERNET NEWS ON DEVELOPMENT ISSUES. InfoTuk is a UNDP-funded project to assist in disseminating and sharing information on development issues in Turkmenistan. It plans to set up Internet training centers as well as supporting Internet access for groups active on health, development, education, and environment issues. For more information, contact Ms. Gulshirin Annadurdyev at annadurdyeva@untuk.org. (Center for Civil Society International, 29 November)

UKRAINE
CRIMEAN NEWSPAPER PROBED FOR ANTI-SEMITIC PUBLICATION. The Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has launched criminal proceedings against the "Russkii Krym" newspaper in Simferopol in connection with anti-Semitic material it has published, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 6 December. Prosecutor Oleksandr Dobroriz said a motion will soon be submitted to court to ban the newspaper. An RFE/RL correspondent reported that "Russkii Krym," which is published by the Russian Movement of Crimea, carried an article that claimed to reveal "tricks of the Jews and their ominous role in the contemporary fate of the Russian people." The proceedings against "Russkii Krym," which were initiated under the Criminal Code provision that prohibits stirring up interethnic enmity, is the first criminal case against a media outlet in Crimea. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December)

UZBEKISTAN
JUMAEV ARRESTED FOR HIS POETRY. Forty-three-year-old Uzbek poet and member of the banned Birlik ("Unity") movement Yusuf Jumaev was arrested in his native Bukhara province on 23 October and accused of religious extremism, according to the latest briefing on his situation from the Central Asian Human Rights Information Network on 4 December. Jumaev was charged with spreading sedition in conversations with people in his village and calling for the "forcible overthrow of the constitutional government" in poems and notes discovered in his house by the police, the Information Network reported. There is concern that signatures from his neighbors on documents testifying to Jumaev's radical view are being coerced by the police. As for the allegedly seditious tenor of his poetry, such lines as "How long will a stupid person remain at the head of the country?/ Until the day of resurrection and Islamic judgment!" do not suggest the rabid rantings of a religious revolutionary, the briefing notes. They may hint, however, at why President Islam Karimov's regime is intent on painting him as one. ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 6 December)

REGIONAL
NTV EXPANDS TO UKRAINE. Preliminary work on launching television network NTV-Ukraine has been completed, Ukrainian entrepreneur Vadim Rabinovich told lenta.ru on 3 December. An agreement on cooperation between NTV and Ukrainian television was reached earlier. The new channel will start broadcasting in January 2002. According to Rabinovich, the new network's staff will consist of Ukrainian (90 percent) and Russian (10 percent) journalists. "The NTV policies will be preserved, and [that] is the most important thing. We will work together as a team collectively gathering the topics. In alliance with the Russians, we consider ourselves younger partners," Rabinovich stated. ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 11 December)

NEW PUBLICATIONS, WEBSITES
NGOS ISSUE REPORT ON MEDIA FUTURE IN AFGHANISTAN. After a mission to Pakistan last month including Article 19 and the Baltic Media Center, international media organizations declared in a new report that freedom of expression concerns are key to a future Afghanistan, reported the European Journalism Center. The report examines Afghan media in Afghanistan and Peshawar, media legal and policy environment, and projects to support Afghan media development. The report included a call for ending government interference in newspapers, encouraging independent media, and transforming state-owned Radio and TV Sharia into a public broadcaster. For the full report, see the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) website, a clearing house for news on Afghan media, at http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?intcrisis_afghanmedia_art19report.html (International Journalists' Network, 10 December)

FIRST ONLINE ARAB JOURNALISM REVIEW. Elsohof.com, the first Arab journalism review online publication, was launched in September 2001. It focuses on media-related issues in the Arab world, such as censorship and self-censorship, as well as journalism in the Arab world. It will publish investigative reports on such issues as media ethics, freedom of expression, accountability and transparency, newsroom diversity, and balanced coverage. The goal of the new publication is to build an interactive network to exchange ideas and influence decision makers, particularly on press freedom. An English brief is on the website for non-Arab readers. The site will also provide daily, biweekly, and monthly editions. For more, see http://www.elsohof.com to contact forum@elsohof.com.

NOTE: In the "End Note" of the 10 December issue of "RFE/RL Media Matters," it should have been noted that author Myroslava Gongadze is the widow of Heorhiy Gongadze.

END NOTE
TERRORISM THRIVES IN THE DARK

By Larry Kilman

The bullets struck Jose Javier Uranga like an angry swarm of bees, forcing him to crumple to the ground. And still they kept firing.

It was a young man in a trenchcoat who fired first, pulling a machine gun from under his trenchcoat as Uranga walked across the parking lot one morning at his newspaper, the "Diario de Navarra." As the bullets struck him, Uranga fell first to his knees, and then to the ground.

As he lay there, a young woman, perhaps a teenager, approached and fired a second machine gun as Uranga instinctively covered his head with his arms, a move that saved his life.

He had been hit 25 times. It has become a cliche to say, "it is a miracle he survived" but it is no less true for it in this case. It is also a miracle that, after 10 operations and 11 months in the hospital, he went back to editing his newspaper.

"If I had quit, it would have been the same as if they killed me. I went back to the newspaper," says Uranga.

So it goes for journalists in the Basque and Navarra regions of Spain. In the heart of the European Union, the ETA terrorist organization has targeted journalists -- and anyone else who disagrees with their tactics -- in their decades-long violent campaign for a separate state.

So the city of Bilbao, in the heart of the Basque Country, was an apt location for a "Terrorism Against the Media" conference organized by the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the Spanish newspaper association AEDE. The conference, in mid-September, drew more than 260 publishers, editors, reporters, and human rights advocates from 25 countries to testify about the dangers they face and to show solidarity with their Spanish colleagues.

The message that emerged from the conference was that courage, persistence, and determination -- qualities possessed in great quantity by Uranga and many others who testified -- were the essential weapons in the war against terror. Coming on the heels of the 11 September tragedy, this message has even more urgency.

"Freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and the free flow of information are not peripheral issues in the fight against terrorism. It is no accident that the presumed authors of the mass terrorism which has hit the United States, and of many other acts of murder and destruction in recent years, are hosted, supported, and often financed by regimes which have eliminated or severely restricted freedom of the press and freedom of expression," said Timothy Balding, director-general of WAN.

"Terrorism thrives best in obscurity, in the dark, hidden from and untroubled by the bright light which free media would shine on it," he said. "This is why protecting and cherishing freedom of the media, in the Basque region, or anywhere else in the world where it is threatened, attacked, or withheld, must be a priority for all of us in democratic nations."

Delegates to the conference heard testimony from journalists working in countries where bodyguards and looking for bombs under cars are part of "normal" life � Algeria, Colombia, Indonesia, Israel, Northern Ireland, and Spain. They all echoed Uranga and Balding on the importance of not caving in to terrorism.

"We know what it is to achieve freedom of speech. We fought against Franco in order to establish democracy. Terrorism is similar to dictatorship -- it is a dictatorship of terror," said Gorka Landaburu, the Basque correspondent for the Spanish magazine "Cambio 16," who lost some fingers and some vision and hearing when he opened a package bomb.

"You have to keep going in life -- we are not going to throw in the towel, we are going to win the battle against terror," he said. "Democracy is difficult to obtain and it must be defended at all costs."

Francisco Santos Calderon, the editor in chief of Colombia's "El Tiempo," said: "The terrorist mind is the worst enemy of a free press. When an organization makes a journalist a military objective, it is difficult for them to step back. But as journalists we have to continue -- if we don't, they win."

Liam Clarke, the Northern Ireland editor for the "Sunday Times," put it this way: "What these assaults on writers and journalists represent is an attempt to control the memory of humanity. By making threats and ultimately attacking and killing journalists, groups are trying to ensure that certain facts and certain opinions do not get into history. That puts particular pressure on journalists to keep reporting. To stop would be a mistake in the long term."

Omar Bellouchet, chief editor of "Al-Watan" in Algeria, knows what it means to continue working despite hardships. He has faced pressure both from Islamic militants and from the Algerian government. He faced machine-gun fire when he went to pick up his children at school. His newspaper has been suspended six times since 1993 and has weathered more than 50 prosecutions in court.

"I understand a little about our Basque colleagues' determination and hate for what is occurring, and their willingness to continue to work, because it is the basis of democracy," he said. "Nobody can do it for them. They must continue for their country, and for their ideals.

"This meeting is very important to let our Basque colleagues know they are not alone," he said. "If terrorists are going to kill journalists, they're going to have to kill all journalists."

Larry Kilman is the director of communications for the World Association of Newspapers and a journalist who has worked for the Associated Press, Agence France-Press, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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