Police put down protest against controversial Internet law in Istanbul
One gas canister fired by the police landed inside a public bus, affecting passengers, during a crackdown on a protest denouncing the new bill on the Internet on Feb 22. DHA photo
A fresh protest in Istanbul to denounce a new bill increasing state control over the Internet was yet again met with a harsh police intervention Feb. 22.
Hundreds of people gathered near Taksim Square, in response to a call to hold a demonstration spread earlier on social media, to express their opposition to the bill signed into law last week by President Abdullah Gül.
Police resorted once again to tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters, cordoning off the surroundings of the Taksim area. Video footage showed that one gas canister fired by the police landed inside a public bus, affecting passengers, including children.
Several protesters were reportedly detained during the intervention.
Some protesters also chanted slogans in support of Berkin Elvan, a teenager who remains in a coma after sustaining a head injury from a gas canister as he went to buy bread during a police crackdown in Istanbul last June.
The iconic Gezi Park, which is located near Taksim Square, was also closed by the police prior to the demonstration.
Gül approved the law Feb. 18 after receiving assurances from the government that problematic aspects of the bill would be amended.
His statements, however, failed to appease the outcry regarding the law that sparked furious criticism inside and outside of Turkey.
One of the most controversial measures introduced by the law was empowering the head of the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) with the authority to block access to web pages within four hours. The move was widely seen as a government move to increase its control over citizens’ online activities.
However, according to the first amendment proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) following Gül’s reservations, it will become obligatory for the head of the TİB to send his decision to court within 24 hours. The amendment also says that the court should make a decision within 24 hours, failing which the TİB’s decision would become void.