Turkey: Protesters strike a blow against Erdogan over internet law

Turkish police deployed tear gas in Ankara and Istanbul as demonstrators gathered to protest violence at rallies for and against a law curbing internet access.

Around 200 people reportedly gathered in Ankara before a pre-arranged protest in which they released purple balloons with tiny microphones connected to smartphones, in an apparent reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opposition to the law.

Citing concerns about violence on social media and the blocking of “terrorist” content, many people used social media to condemn the new law.

Turkish President Erdogan calls the measure essential to combat Kurdish militants.

“Black flags are now ruling our internet,” reads a sign held up by one demonstrator.

Police have denied they used tear gas in response to protests.

They have, however, been criticised by opposition parties.

“The police are covering up the real reason for the dispersal of people,” opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) politician Cemil Bayik told the BBC.

“They want to present the real reasons as a social protest against the offensive”

Critics argue the measure will effectively limit free speech in Turkey.

The bill, which was passed in parliament earlier this month, is expected to become law in the coming days.

It seeks to tighten restrictions on internet access in response to an attack by Kurdish militants in 2016 that killed 32 security personnel.

Experts say efforts by the Turkish state to crack down on social media should not be allowed to inhibit important political discussion.

Turkish state-run media say state prosecutors are investigating social media accounts belonging to ‘meaningless bloggers’ whom the government says are leading violent protests in Turkey.

Turkey has been widely condemned by human rights groups for cracking down on all kinds of free speech.

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