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Hundreds demonstrate against new Internet legislation in Turkey

Hundreds of people have demonstrated in the center of Istanbul in protest of new government controls over the Internet. Police fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse the protesters.

Hundreds of protesters tried on Saturday to march to Istanbul's main square to show their anger at proposed Internet legislation they say will damage political freedom in Turkey.

Demonstrators, calling out slogans such as "Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption," threw firecrackers and stones at police who cordoned off Taksim Square.

Police responded by firing water cannon and tear gas.

The demonstrators were protesting at new controls on the Internet approved by the parliament this week. Once signed into law by the president, they will allow authorities to block websites for privacy violation without a court decision.

Internet providers would also be forced to keep users' data and make them available to authorities.

Opposition criticism

The Turkish opposition says the measures are aimed at stifling political debate in Turkey, particularly regarding the corruption scandal afflicting the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The European Union has also criticized the new controls.

Erdogan on Saturday denied accusations of censorship, insisting that the legislation will make the Internet "more safe and free."

Since the corruption scandal broke in December, Erdogan's government has purged hundreds of police, sought tighter control of the courts and fired executives from banking and telecoms regulators and state television.

tj/ph (AP, Reuters)

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