Crowds gathered at the weekend, following calls to protest via social media around Istiklal Street in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district. Demonstrators gathered protesting against the Internet law recently passed by Parliament which will impose heavy restrictions on Internet freedom. However, the act will require President Gul’s approval before it comes into effect.
Protesters who attempted to march towards Taksim Square were blocked after fireworks were thrown at police who responded with water cannon. Police then followed up with a tear gas attack, in an attempt to completely disperse the crowd.
A large number of people on Istiklal Street who were incidentally caught up by police action, some of them children and disabled individuals, suffered the side effects of the tear gas. A couple caught with their baby in the skirmish was also affected by tear gas, and the family was taken from the scene by a police car.
On Sunday, the pro-government ‘Star’ daily described those protesting the amendment as a “porno lobby”; the report was harshly criticised on Twitter. Mahir Zeynalov, a journalist for ‘Zaman’ who left Turkey for his native Azerbaijan on Friday morning following a government decision to deport him for posting tweets deemed critical of the government, wrote on his Twitter account, “Can this paper, which is exploiting people’s religious sentiments, legitimise a law that introduces censorship on the Internet?”
The controversial amendment to the law regulating Internet news portals and websites, which was approved last week in Parliament, authorises the head of the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) on his own initiative and without court approval, to block access to a webpage in the event that there is a concern regarding a violation of the right to privacy.