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A vote in Turkey’s parliament to tighten government control over the internet has sparked condemnation at home and abroad.
It will mean that telecommunications authorities can block web pages within hours, with no need for a prior court order, and it will allow individuals’ browsing histories to be stored for up to two years.
As the EU expressed concern at the news, the opposition claimed it was part of efforts by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stifle a corruption scandal.
Some in Turkey fear Big Brother style surveillance if the law is given final approval by the president.
“People won’t be able to make comments as they please,” said Istanbul resident Yilmaz Aslan.
“Freedom will be limited. You were able to share via the Internet what you can’t say in person. But that it not possible anymore. Freedom has gone.”
“It is damaging Turkey’s reputation, if we look at it from an international perspective,” added fellow Istanbul dweller Burak Orhan.
“Turkey is becoming a more oppressive country. People’s freedoms are being limited.”
Turkey already has strict internet laws under which thousands of websites have been blocked, from news portals viewed as close to Kurdish militants to gay dating sites.
Social media sites have been awash with alleged
recordings of ministers including Prime Minister Erdogan and businessmen close to him, which are presented as evidence of wrongdoing.
While their authenticity may be in doubt, Erdogan continues to reject corruption claims, saying they are part of an organised bid to undermine him.
The scandal erupted in December with the arrest of businessmen close to Erdogan and three cabinet ministers’ sons.
It has spiralled into one of the greatest threats to his 11-year rule, months ahead of local and presidential elections.
His government has already purged the police and
judiciary, reassigning thousands of officers and dozens of prosecutors.