Turkey increases control of Internet

President Abdullah Gul signs law allowing telecom authority to block websites without a court order

Protesters in Ankara, Turkey hold signs reading, "We refuse your bans!" and "Theft is free, Internet is banned' as they demonstrate on Feb. 8, 2014 against new controls on the Internet approved by the Turkish parliament.
Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish President Abdullah Gul approved a new law Tuesday which critics said aims to increase government controls over the Internet.

The legislation, approved by Parliament earlier this month, allows the telecommunications authority to block websites without a court decision. It also requires Internet providers to keep records of users' activities for two years and make them available to authorities.

The move is seen by critics of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's critics as an authoritarian response to a corruption inquiry shaking his government and a bid to stop leaks from circulating online.

Gul announced on his Twitter account that he signed the legislation into law Tuesday only after government officials stated that two disputed articles of the legislation would be amended.

The European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, had called the legislation "a step back" for media freedom.

The government says the laws will further democracy by protecting individuals' privacy on the Internet.

Police fired teargas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the Internet law in Istanbul this month.

Communications Minister Lutfi Elvan said earlier on Tuesday evening the government would present to parliament the Internet law amendments once Gul had given his approval.

Gul has made little secret of his desire to return to mainstream politics and is seen as a future leader of the ruling AK Party, an ambition his critics say leaves him too wary of conflict with Erdogan to act as an effective check on his power.

"Gul wants to serve as president for a second term and has the desire to chair the AKP after Erdogan, so even if he does not fully agree, he is approving controversial regulations from the party," political analyst Atilla Yesilada said in a report.

Wire services

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