Protest over Internet curbs in Turkey

February 09, 2014 - 6:21:28 am

Turkish riot police take cover from fireworks shot at them by protesters during an anti government protest for against new Internet curbs, in Istanbul, yesterday.

ISTANBUL: Turkish riot police yesterday used tear gas and water cannon to disperse more than 2,000 people demonstrating against new Internet curbs that have sparked alarm at home and abroad. Large numbers of police with body armour and shields backed up by armoured water cannon trucks were deployed against the chanting, mostly young crowd around Istanbul’s central Taksim Square.

“I pay my own Internet bill but it’s the government that decides what sites I can look at,” one demonstrator, Semih, complained. “They want to control what we do on the Internet. It’s repression. But the young will not be repressed, we won’t take it lying down.”

The new curbs provoked a storm of protest, with critics saying they were an attempt by Erdogan to stifle dissent and stop evidence of high-level corruption being seen online.

They give the telecoms authority the power to order a webpage blocked without the need for a court order if the content is deemed to infringe privacy or is offensive.

Human Rights Watch said the restrictions raise concerns that a “defensive government is seeking to increase its power to silence critics and to arbitrarily limit politically damaging material online”.

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz called them a “step back in an already suffocating environment for media freedom,” while Washington also expressed misgivings.

Erdogan has portrayed the investigation as a plot against him by people within the Turkish police and judiciary loyal to Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher living in the United States. AFP

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