“Internet or the Apocalypse,” threatened a banner that showed some of the protesters from a burning barricade the riot police deployed in front of them tonight in downtown Istanbul.
Hundreds of people tried once again to reach Taksim Square to protest, this time against the approval of a law that allows the government to shut down websites without judicial authorization.
“We are against censorship on the Internet and we have no way to protest,” said Hassan, a 37 year old Turkish man, while pointing to the barricade. He works in a bank and declined to give his last name for “fear of the police” and for fear of reprisals in his work place.
” Nobody listens to us, even in Europe, and the media are on the side of the government,” he said as another protester said that this new attempt to censor the internet in Turkey would take the nation to a situation like the one between Iran and North Korea.
A lot of riot police had previously cordoned off both the square and park Gezi, the epicenter of mass protests last summer. But demonstrations at this park still took place in Istanbul and other Turkish cities.
Riot control agents released large amounts of tear gas and fired into the protesters with rubber bullets while shooting protesters with water cannons.
On the other side, protesters, many with their faces covered with scarves or even gas masks, repeated chants demanding the resignation of the government and the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and shouted: “Resistance everywhere.” Although the vast majority were peaceful, there were also a few people who responded by throwing stones at police.
However, the rapid and forceful response of the police dispersed the demonstrators and the situation was much calmer at around 9pm, even with a lot of agents blocking the way to Taksim square and Gezu park.
This is the latest in a series of protests that began in late May 2013 and have become a new normal in the center of Istanbul.
A lot of people, many of them foreign tourists, paced around Taksim Square without showing signs of alarm. Turkish fast food stalls remained open between police and protesters and the remains of gas did not prevent many people from eating their typical döner kebab a few meters from the chants of the protesters. Music was heard while prying bars, walkers and tourists watched the fighting and took pictures and videos with their mobile phones.
If these people publish this material in a web page and the recently approved law by the Turkish Parliament Act came into force, the government could block these web pages without judicial authorization if it considers that such images violate the privacy of any person.
Both the Turkish opposition parties and the organizations defending freedom of the press and expression have asked the President, Abdullah Gul, not to sign the law and in doing so avoid its entry into force.
In Turkey, the Internet access is already restricted by the authorities, who, in recent years, have blocked thousands of websites. Since the protesters made ??great use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter during protests at Gezi, Erdogan himself publicly criticized this use of Internet and several journalists lost their jobs for expressing their opinions or post information on events on Twitter.
The government yesterday increased pressure on the press in this regard with the expulsion of Mahir Zeynalov, an Azerbaijani journalist working for the Today’s Zaman, a Turkish newspaper. According to his paper, Zeynalov was deported for criticizing Erdogan on his personal Twitter account. Authorities have confirmed the deportation.
The expulsion of Zeynalov is also part of the alleged political war that the government has with the followers of Gülen Fetulá Islamic cleric, whose orbit is within the Today ‘s Zaman.