Turkey ranks second in Internet censors: Report
Protesters hold a placard reading "Theft is free, Internet is banned" as they demonstrate Feb 8 against new controls on the Internet approved by the Turkish Parliament this week. AFP photo
Turkey ranks second after China in demands to ban Internet content, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), amid a controversial new Internet law increasing restrictions and the government’s power over the Internet, daily Radikal reported.
The report comes at a time when protests have been held in several cities against a controversial Internet law that allows a government agency, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TİB), to block access to websites without a court order if the site is deemed to violate privacy or has “insulting” content.
On Feb. 8, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters in central Istanbul during a march against the law.
Hundreds of people gathered near Galatasaray Square on İstiklal Avenue upon a call from social media to protest against the new curbs, which have been criticized by a wide-range of institutions and human rights groups over the last week.
Police used pressurized water on protesters, while some officers also fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
The Internet law was approved by Parliament on Feb. 6, and gives the authority to block access to web pages to the head of the TİB. It has been widely seen as a government move to increase control over citizens’ online activities.
Earlier on Feb. 8, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had vehemently rejected criticism of the new curbs.
“These regulations do not impose any censorship at all on the Internet ... On the contrary, they make it safer and freer,” Erdoğan told a crowd of several thousand supporters in Istanbul.
He also denied that the authorities would now have access to Internet users’ personal information.
“It is out of the question that people’s private data will be recorded,” said Erdoğan.
Opposition parties, as well as Turkey’s leading business organization the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) and other international organizations, have called on President Abdullah Gül to veto the bill.
Meanwhile, Internet subscription prices offered in Turkey are more expensive than many OECD countries for different Internet speeds, according to another report released by TEPAV on Feb. 4.
In Turkey, the average subscription price for high-speed internet reaches $621 per year, while in the closest follower, Luxemburg, the price of high-speed Internet subscription is only $112, according to the research titled “How Is Internet Usage Changing in Turkey? An Assessment of Internet Users.”
The research also revealed that as of 2009, 62 percent of the population in Turkey had never used the Internet.