Where Have All The Good Men Gone?


Like most of my compatriots, I am deeply saddened by the government’s persecution of the media. The shameful tragedy that was the shutting down of the entire Geo Network is earning the most vehement protests of all, and deservedly so. (I was glad to read in The News yesterday, though, that Geo is planning to launch itself from a new location very soon – jiyo, Geo!)

On a personal level though, what has contributed most greatly to my own heartbreak over the media’s situation is the fact that Aaj TV has stopped airing Live With Talat. Aaj TV, as you probably know, has been allowed to resume transmission. However, the government’s conditions for its resumption included the cancellation of two of Aaj’s leading current affairs programs: Live With Talat and Bolta Pakistan. Both programs have been off the air since Aaj’s return to the screen, thus depriving Pakistan of the broadcasting brilliance of Talat Hussain, Nusrat Javed, and Mushtaq Minhas.

This evening, Talat Hussain talked to Dawn News about the cancellation of his show and Bolta Pakistan. The government, he said, gave no choice to Aaj TV – it was either cancel the current affairs programming, or go off the air for good. Also, apparently, Aaj TV does not operate under a regular license; had it gone to PEMRA to renew its monthly license, it would not have been allowed to do so. Under these circumstances, the channel decided to bite the bullet and go on air sans current affairs.

When asked for his response to the government’s claim that the media is being clamped down upon due to ‘irresponsible journalism’, Talat remarked on the redundancy of the term in the world of journalism: “We believe all journalism is supposed to be responsible.” He also said that the issue of irresponsible journalism must be divorced from the current media crisis, citing the fact that even the BBC was blacked out. (“Is Lyce Ducet an irresponsible journalist too?”) The crackdown, he said, has been “across the board, my friend.” He stressed that what is happening to the media should be looked at clearly in the context of the emergency, the PCO, the impending elections, and the military dictator who just doesn’t want to leave his seat of power. (It was amusing how quickly the Dawn anchor cut him off as soon as he said the words ‘military dictator’.) He also outlined the government’s four given principles for ‘responsible journalism’: “One, no bashing of Musharraf; two, no expulsions of the [post-PCO] judiciary; three, no bashing of the military; and four, temperate language.” Interesting stuff, isn’t it? It’s got enlightened democracy written all over it. “It’s got nothing to do with responsible journalism,” said Talat, “only bad politics.”

Dismal as the picture still seems, it was wonderful to see Talat on television again. With his straight-as-an-arrow persona, no-nonsense attitude, and deep devotion to his job and his country, he is, without a doubt, one of the world’s great journalists, a national treasure that we cannot afford to lose.

There’s always this talk about a dearth of national heroes who can evoke a political and social conscience in our people. We look for great Pakistanis among cricketers and pop stars and actors, but we often forget the wealth of greatness we already possess in our journalists. Talat Hussain, Dr. Shahid Masood, Kashif Abbasi, Nusrat Javed, Mushtaq Minhas – these are great Pakistanis. And there are more like them. Journalists with a conscience, dedicated men and women tirelessly fulfilling their responsibility to this nation, digging up the truths we so badly need to know, asking our questions for us, getting us the answers, and above all, encouraging us to think for ourselves.

To be deprived of heroes like these is one of the most grievous injustices ever inflicted on the people of Pakistan.

22 Comments so far

  1. Talha (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 12:13 am

    I have been following this man since almost a decade now on various forums including The News editorials, PTV, Aaj, Jinnah Super Market and Airblue.

    I have found him to be a fine professional, and (the way he carries his daughter on his shoulders) a fine father. That too in Jinnah super market, come on…doesn’t that remind you of our Holy Prophet (PBUH) extending his sajda’s for his nawasas? Doesn’t that make you fall in love with his politeness.

    I am sad at this news. But I am sure he will find better avenues. I absolutely find him to be one of the top inspirations in my thoughts!

    I whole-heatedly pray for his success as an individual and as a professional.

    May Allah take care of all the good people.


  2. woman in a men's world (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 12:17 am

    “It’s got nothing to do with responsible journalism,” said Talat, “only bad politics.”

    This says everything. Its not doubt bad politics which has resulted in this mess in country!!

    Army wisdom is treating journalism the way they treat politics. They say there’re no good politicians so we have to step in. similarly there’re no responsible journalist so they have to dive in wid their own well-taught journalists.

    We should Thank Allah that army doesnt have a ‘Military News Network’

  3. SELF (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 12:48 am

    Nice title Fatima. Applies to all areas; judiciary, civil service, politics…but most especially to military.

  4. A for [pine]apple (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 1:32 am

    Wonderful piece Fatima, I’m in total agreement!

    Unfortunately, the policy makers and the ruling class of Pakistan wants us to see the picture-perfect Pakistan from their angle. Hence the restrictions and shunning of vocal media that can reach the masses of Pakistan. I actually started following him (not like talha though :) ) regularly after the remarkable interview he took of Sushma Suraj few years back, during his PTV days.

    “Traitors of People” are shown as “Heroes of Common Man” on the state-run channel for years on and on.

  5. Dr Rasool (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 2:07 am

    Geo Talat.May Allah bless you bro….

  6. Project Humanbeingsfirst.org (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 7:31 am

    Dear readers,

    it is heartening to see so many concerned Pakistanis loudly lament the loss of Geo, Aaj, et.al., and quite justifiably vent against the abhorrent media clamp down (from the comforts of their drawing room) – and as Talat was quoted above: “It’s got nothing to do with responsible journalism,” said Talat, “only bad politics.” There are certainly levels of ‘responsible journalism’, or rather, constrained gamuts within which it is ‘responsibly’ exercised. Here is a slightly contrarian viewpoint to all the gushing sympathies – it was posted on the ‘Geo is Shut’ comment blog a few days ago. A companion viewpoint that hasn’t yet been put up in the same blog is also appended to provide further clarity and stimulate a constructive and deeper debate on the role of news media – in theory, and more importantly, in implementation – beyond what we have been seeing discussed thus far anywhere in Pakistan:


    Dear Geo TV News staff, senior management, CEO, and all the sympathetic audience lamenting the loss of Geo and writing their prolific comments here,

    While it is always tragic for any organization to be shut down through draconian and dictatorial measures, and I do hope that Geo is able to get back on air and recover from this travesty, I have to suggest that it’s no national loss that this noise box is gone. What has it achieved? Created more zombies who remain contented spectators glued to their sofas watching it all on the soap box rather than being active participants in their nation’s affairs and the civil society. As for bringing the peoples truthful ‘current affairs’ on the minute – hardly. Geo and all the other banned news media in Pakistan have certainly quite excelled in showing the ‘katputli tamashas’ as they have played out, very accurately. Indeed, for your engaging reporting of the visible leaves of the trees as they have continually fallen in the autumn of the nation’s pathetic and wretched life, full marks to Geo. But so what – it’s no different than the reality television shows in the US that gets a glued and captive audience mesmerized by the thuggery and debauchery on display. Is that what is meant by informing the polity? Perhaps partly, but surely not entirely?

    Neither Geo, nor ARY, nor Aaj, Dawnnews, et. al., quite sadly, were ever able to unravel the multi-tiered deception games at play, nor able to penetrate through the ‘technique of infamy’. They all remained focused on the microscopic whims of local rulers when the puppeteers were playing for keeps on the global ‘Grand Chessboard’. Ever hear of ‘Black-ops’ – evidently not! And obviously ‘Covert-ops’ is a non-word in the news media. So what consciousness did these news shows raise among the masses, or what real knowledge about what’s really happening did they bring? Judging from the malaise and lethargy, nay, total apathy, in the Pakistani society among the masses who presumably watch television shows like Geo (as claimed by Geo) to inform themselves, these news shows have only produced Zombies. In the previous age of radio and no information age and no internet, there was far more activism and conscience displayed in society than today. Care to explain this dichotomy if your news programs over the past six or seven years have produced anything substantially beneficial for the society? What is it? Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in its eating, not in assertions and bragging rights – leave that to the rulers!

    You have, for all practical purposes, only produced more zombies! Just look at the anemic size of street protests – in fact Geo coverage of it has made excellent viewing entertainment for many families. More have been content watching Geo in the comforts of their homes than ever before. Then, instead of getting their conscience fired up and joining those being beaten up in an exhibition of brutality that can only put us back into the stone age of barbarism – perhaps unmatched by anyone else except the Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan which all your news programs and commentaries persisted in calling the ‘war on terror’ rather than the ‘war of terror’ for ‘imperial mobilization’ – apathetically moving on to do the routine ‘pooja’ of their stomach, and life is back to normal until the next round of some more watching Geo!

    I know this is a contrarian view, and perhaps not the best time to offer it. But you seem to be in the listening mode and so I hope you accept it in the true spirit of ‘freedom of the press’ – whatever that may mean to you. To me, it is entirely an illusion deftly spinned to keep the facade of ‘democracy’ going – worldwide! What does it mean to be the fourth pillar of democracy – who watches the watchdog? Anyone with money can set up a press or news media – and it is their respective corporate interests and ideological penchants that define ‘freedom of the press’ – is that the criteria for the fourth pillar of democracy? Anyone with good looks and ability to speak and act can become an anchor – is that the criteria for a television journalist? Is the conscience of a journalist more profound or more moral than of those whom he or she supposedly monitors? If not, then who monitors the journalists? A more penetrating analysis of this question in the context of the mind numbing American news media can be found in Chapters 6 and 7 of http://prisonersofthecave.org – as per the wisdom that whatever is in the developed nations is a learning mirror and 20-30 year heads-up to developing nations, if we are wise that is!

    If you do come back on air, perhaps both Geo News and your faithful audience can try to address some of these never before talked about issues regarding the ‘freedom of the press’ as the watchdog of ‘democracy’. At least talk about your ‘special skills’ and ‘integrity’ and ‘special abilities’ upon which you claim the ‘ubermensch’ imperative of watchdog status! In other words, what special analytical and forensic ‘skills’ and ‘knowledge’ do your journalists and news producers have, and what super morality do they and your corporate owners claim, that you are all exempt from both ineptness and co-optation unlike the rest of us in society? The fact that you have been shut down at the capricious whim of a ‘doctor gone wild’ with saving the nation even if it kills the patient, is not an automatic adjudication of your social achievements and journalistic contributions to ‘democracy’, even though, in your best capacity, you did try to stand up to abusive power as you saw fit.

    Unfortunately that isn’t enough to inform and ‘activate’ the people through modern day journalism where masterful orchestration of ‘technique of infamy’ is the name of the game, as is the passive indoctrination of the masses! You seem to have done well on both counts. In case of the former, you have elaborately documented each and every leaf that you could see, without forensically seeking the DNAs of the trees – for that’s all your camera can capture with your on-site reporting! And your plethora of talking heads later coming on to analyze the events of the day can hardly be published in any peer reviewed academic journal for their profound thoughts. As for indoctrination, well you did provide a compelling and captivating narrative captured on camera – the ‘reality television show’ – and you only created a massive following of zombies, once again at the risk of being repetitive, not unlike in ‘1984’, or in the movie ‘V for Vendetta’. If raising the conscience of the peoples to stand up for their rights and their nation – the masses with their stomachs attached and barely able to subsist in the ‘7-8 percent growth economy’ – was your goal, did you really succeed? How else can the role of the ‘fourth pillar of democracy be defined’?

    The ‘fifth of November’ already came and went. Well perhaps we all dream of ‘remembering’ it next year – at least those with a modicum of humanity left in our soul – and amazingly hoping someone else will make it happen! Will Geo, in its next reincarnation after this wakeup call?

    Thank you.

    Zahir Ebrahim

    Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

    Opinion posted by Project Humanbeingsfirst on November 17, 2007 on Geo comment blog.


    —- APPENDAGE —-


    Opinion originally submitted to ‘Geo is shut’ blog – has either been rejected or not yet processed.


    On reading the many messages that thoughtful viewers of Geo have taken the time to write here, I sense that there is a general confusion about the role of media in society, especially their role in a democratic society, or one that is striving towards it. I have previously provided feedback – appears on page 11 – that was critical of Geo in many aspects which are not traditionally thought about in any democratic society, and the mantra of ‘freedom of the press’ is taken for granted as the ‘fourth pillar of democracy’ without giving due consideration to its implementation. However, the following thoughtful message by a commenter requires another response as it is quite full of misconceptions on the role of news media, especially one like Geo, and this theme keeps resurfacing.

    Danish Ahmed [Karachi] Posted on 19, Nov 2007


    [… Geo was continously hitting present government which i would say US or British government would have not even tolerated CNN or BBC in this way… Their are certain code of ethics and conducts in all fields which GEO was not following and justifying as ” freedom of expression”.Rebillions are always punished in every ways.]

    In a nutshell, ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of the press’ and enshrining it in a constitution is a gift of the Western Renaissance. It is their baby which we are trying to transplant into our historically ‘monarchy’ driven autocratic and feudalistic society. So it is important to understand both the transplant, as well as the soil in which it is going into, in order to have a successful transplant – as any wise gardener might attest – as did the late scholar and gadfly to power Eqbal Ahmed who repeatedly warned us about this when borrowing blindly from the West. So here is briefly about the ‘transplant’. All of us already know much about the ‘soil’ – sadly we know too much.

    The purpose behind giving such freedom to the press, as per Ben Franklin – the founding father of the United States who was also a newspaper man and had a small press – was to make it monitor the centers and corridors of power. Mainly governmental power, but also all sources of power in society. For that was the watchdog to sanity-check the mis-behavior and corruption of power by those empowered to implement ‘democracy’ – the triad of an independent but appointed judiciary, the elected legislative, and the elected executive – the system we are trying to blindly copy and adapt into our own native soil despite its barrenness!

    This watchdog, presumably independent, and as independent as the independent judiciary despite being appointed (but also confirmed by the elected legislature), is traditionally labeled the ‘fourth pillar’ of constitution in a democratic setup. So how can a watchdog not be a watchdog upon the corridors of power? The same way as why the ‘dog does not bark’! For those unfamiliar with the Sherlock Holmes story where I think this phrase first comes from, the always barking guard dog does not bark on the eventful night of the robbery when its owner himself or herself robs his or her own house!

    In a very weak sense today, because of certain co-optations in the system, and consolidation and corporatization-privatization of public airwaves, that watchdog function has itself been co-opted, to a certain degree. Thus we read on the upper right hand corner of the front page of every edition of the New York Times for instance, “All the news that’s fit to print”. Who decides what’s fit to print? The owners of New York Times and the ideological penchants of its Editorial staff of course. Not usually the journalist – who typically only follows the guideline handed him or her, or it’s a ‘pink slip’, i.e., out of a job if the guidelines, often unwritten, are consistently violated. Thus the attached stomach to one’s body also causes co-optation in the system. That is how the modern mainstream corporatized ‘military-industrial-complex’ affiliated press (and news media) works in the West, more or less. And thus we constantly see ‘Islamophobia’ being discussed so openly – because it serves the interests of the ruling elite and the coporatized media is now pretty much owned by them! So when they don’t bark – that’s why. Not because they ought not to bark!

    Despite all this, you still see American and European press, at the opportune time, turning on their own governments, and indeed very very courageously exposing their monumental crimes. The Abu Garib atrocities appeared in the American Press first. As did the story of tortures officially authorized by the Pentagon – slowly, much too slowly, but nevertheless, it still did. And in the 1960s, when men were men and women were women and press was press and freedom from the shackles of society was in the air, Daniel Elsberg leaked the ‘Pentagon Papers’ that several American Newspapers published – very very courageously – and that is what brought the Vietnam war to an end eventually by building up the antiwar movement. Just google ‘Pentagon Papers’, and one will know a bit of history of what a courageous press can accomplish – if it wants to that is.

    How does that relate to Geo? One can easily see that they have also understood their self-ascribed function to be – despite being a privately owned for-profit media – public service, to the extent of attempting to be that watchdog function even though we haven’t yet achieved the ideal of a democratic and civilized nation.

    I don’t work for Geo, and don’t speak for them, but I believe that their hope was to take the nation to that state of egalitarian existence by being that ‘fourth pillar’ of that much desired modernity du jour. In my previous comment that appears on page 11 (and which unfortunately keeps changing as new comments are added – wish the administrator of this blog would make permanent the url of a page on which a comment is put so others can find and reference it easily) I actually criticized Geo for not quite living up to that ideal despite all their hype, and in actuality turning the nation into a pool of bespectating zombies getting their thrills watching the ‘reality television’ in the comfort of their homes glued to their sofas! If this was America and not Pakistan, I might have also added ‘while drinking beer and gulping down pizzas.’

    Such ideals need open debate in a civilized society so one can crystalize them and force such protections as the ‘freedom of the press and individual speech’, Human Rights Conventions (to which incidentally Pakistan is a signatory), equal rights, etc., in the nation’s constitution as we move (hopefully) forward towards democracy (rather than towards annihilation due to our own stupidity). Stupid nations, and stupid peoples, rise and fall together, by electing or selecting or accepting, stupid leaders who desire to rule them by hook or by crook – that is the lesson of modernity, as well of ancient wisdom, including our own legacy. I hope that our present leaders aren’t stupid and all this turmoil is just a bad dream that will go away in a minute! When I wakeup, we will be living in a peaceful, just, and humanitarian democratic, but most importantly, civilized society…

    Thank you.

    Zahir Ebrahim

    Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

    Posted by project humanbeingsfirst on Nov 20 on Geo comment blog.

    — end

  7. Majad (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 8:17 am

    Great post Fatima and i’m in agreement with you. If nothing has been acheived by our politicians and military in the past 60 years, at least we can hold our heads up and say that some daring journalism led the way to raise awareness about the state of Pakistans rulers and voices to those to have none. Now when we hear that 140 people are killed, thanks to people like Hamid Mir, we can appreciate that those 140 are not just a statistic but real people who have homes and families… without upright journalists we would all be blisfully unaware of what is happening to our country.

  8. Danish Hasan (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

    In the beginning Musharraf used to say that the media is free to criticize me.Now that they started talking he couldn’t stand it.I dont understand what is he so afraid of if he is not doing anything wrong?There are so many things about which the media hasn’t even spoken yet e.g missing persons, stock exchange crash, wheat/sugar hoarding etc.If they were actually so independent they would have spoken about these things as well.This isn’t the 80’s when the only source of information is Proper Television (PTV).By proper I mean whatever is considered correct by the government.People can still see the same talk shows on the internet.News can easily be shared through sms.If cameras are broken by police, videos can still be made through cell phones and they can be quickly uploaded to youtube.We are the masters of our destiny.Nobody can stop us from fighting for our rights if we are willing to fight, if we have the spirit.May Allah bless our nation.

  9. Danish Hasan (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

    One thing I forgot to talk about before was the complete closure of Geo.In 1997 Nawaz Sharif and Saif ur Rehman tried their best to close down jang group.They were successful for a few days but then they had to surrender.Jang Group came out of it.I’m sure this government wont succeed either.

  10. MKS (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 3:42 pm

    I heard that Talat has left Aaj and he tried to join Geo, but since Geo is also closed, he deferred his decision.

    BTW Geo News has started testing on new frequancy on PAS10

    Now uplinking from UK. Those who have dish can now watch Geo News on PAS10 at 68.5 degree east

    Frequancy 4154

    SR 4410

    Polarity H

    FEC 3/4

  11. IUnknown (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

    i think geo has received wat it deserved. they have made the fun of nation in whole world widh mush.

    India has more liberal media than ours and so as USa but they neve give out internals of their country infront of whole world. Whereas GEO is always first to “Zaleel” us in front of the whole world.

    This channel shud be KILLED!!

  12. Go Figure (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

    Talat being a professional and a Hero? come on! The moment he comes live on the TV, that instant he starts showing off and spilling hatred against the Government and bringing lotas from the opposition parties and lets them spill out their guts against the government while he rarely gives enough time to a government spokesman to clarify his point. He acts like as if hes is some warrior type of journalists while in the end he is nothing but some big ego wanna be yellow journalists. He along with those two losers in AAJ TV’s bolta Pakistan should have been removed from the beginning. Good riddance!! and no I dont work for the government or anything. :)

  13. Pkhan (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 12:33 am

    It should never come back GEO OR ARY ? These people are making their NUMBERS for international media. These people have NO sympathy for Pakistan, specially Dr SHAHEED and MEER or TalaT ,they should be working for INDIAN channels if they except them?

  14. Danish Hasan (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 10:50 am

    Does anybody remember Tehelka?They made films of government officials indulging in illegal activities e.g. accepting kickbacks for defense deals.They never got banned or anything.Then why ban private channels who criticize the government?The media is supposed to pin point all the wrong things in the society.Independent media can never be pro government.It has to maintain a neutral stance.But yes everybody should be given a chance.I agree with the fact that Talat or other hosts would not let people speak and cut them in between.Yes that is wrong, he never let people complete their point but does that mean he should be banned?Wasi Zafar, Ahmed Raza Kasuri used filthy language on television and their videos are available on the internet.Was Wasi Zafar asked to resign from the government for the embarassment he had caused?He was simply given another ministry.

  15. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

    Talat will do “LIVE WITH TALAT” today from Karachi Press Club.

  16. Fauzan (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

    Criticism is justified. Freedom of media is a must. But neither is undue criticism justified nor is the disrespect and abuse of the freedom granted to the media.

    Sentimental tears and Jiyo GEO will not silence the fact that certain channels were hell bent on being anti-Pakistan. You are either anti-government or anti-state and GEO being GEO was both unfortunately. Personally, YES, I am glad they put a lid on them. It was about time they did. Just because you don’t know the other side of the story does not mean that all you have heard is the RIGHT stuff.

    Enough said.

  17. OpenEyes (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

    Talat Hussain is one of the asset of Pakistan Nation.

    NA-PAK Army is targeting every moral asset of Pakistan like:

    Dr.Qadeer Khan,
    Imran Khan,
    Iftikhar Chaudhry,
    Judiciary Judges,
    and many missing persons associated with AQ Khan

    NA-PAK Army has history of defeats. 1965, 1971 etc and this time Pakistani Nation will give them defeat for ever INSHALLAH.

    MQM Chamchas shutup as people can very easily identify the supporter of MUSH and NA-PAK Army

  18. OpenEyes (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

    Media People should use all their resources to launch compagien against all those who were with Musharraf for past 5yrs.

    Prepare Reports on white colar corruptions, scandals and scams and Name of all those people suspected to be invovled in, so that people remember their names and dont vote them.

    Stock Exchange Crash,
    Gandum Hoarding scandal,
    Sugar Hoarding Scandal,
    Cement Scandal,
    Steel Mills Sell,
    Habib Bank Sell on cheap price,
    Allotments of Land of Karachi schem-33,
    Politicians invovled in
    Lal Masjid Killings
    Akbar Bugti Killings
    Wazirastan Bombings and killing
    Invovled in Crushing Media,Journalist
    (i.e. MQM, Sheikh Rasheed, Wasi Zafar etc.)
    Invovled in Crushing Judiciary, MAY 12th
    (i.e. MQM, Waseem Akhter, MUSH etc.)

    Don’t let the peopele forgot those faces.

    Don’t let the peopele forgot those faces ever.

    Organize stregth in batlefield of Internet Forums, Newspapers, SMS, TV Chanels, Forieng Channels and any other media resource.

    They should not let go this time.

  19. Go Figure (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 4:36 pm

    I can see some Indians here spreading hatred among Pakistanis and Pakistan Army. We are not against our army but we are against some Generals who believe the country is their backyard to play with and abuse. Thats we are against. Otherwise our salute always go to our army Jawans.

  20. MKS (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 4:54 pm




  21. Hassan Abbas (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2007 @ 2:32 am

    So he speaks the truth again,.

  22. V (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2007 @ 3:19 am

    a very good post!

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