Turkey police disperse protest against new internet controls (VIDEO)
Turkish police have fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds of protesters rallying against “draconian” internet laws approved by parliament.
Police approached the crowd along Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue and fired water cannons from behind armored vehicles as protesters tried to march to the city’s main square.
"Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption," protesters chanted.
As riot police fired water cannons at protesters, some of them responded by throwing stones or setting off fireworks aimed at law enforcement officers.
The new bill was passed late Wednesday by the parliament dominated by the Erdogan’s AKP party.
If the president approves the legislation, it would give authorities the power to block web pages without a court order within just hours.
It would also require internet service providers (ISPs) to store data on their clients’ online activities for two years and provide it to the authorities on request.
However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected any possibility that the regulations would allow authorities to have access to internet users' personal information.
"Never. It is out of the question that people's private data will be recorded," he said in Istanbul on Saturday.
The opposition says the move is part of a government bid to stifle a corruption scandal and accuses the government of limiting Internet freedoms.
Erdogan denies accusations of censorship, saying the legislation would make the internet "more safe and free.”
"These regulations do not impose any censorship at all on the Internet ... On the contrary, they make it safer and freer," he said.
Prepared by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, the bill provoked mass rallies in mid-January, shortly after it was announced. The protest was dispersed by riot police who used water cannons and tear gas against hundreds of opponents of the bill.
The bill amends Law No. 5651, widely known as Turkey’s Internet Law that came into effect in July 2007.