ISTANBUL, Turkey, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Groups protesting a bill they said would violate Internet privacy were dispersed by Turkish police in Istanbul using water cannons and tear gas, officials say.
Critics of the bill say it is an effort to block leaks of information that could further embarrass government officials at a time many of them face allegations of corruption, Today's Zaman reported Sunday.
Demonstrators attempting to march to Taksim Square Saturday night were blocked by police, who attempted to disperse the crowd with water cannons after fireworks were thrown at them. Police then fired tear gas after failing to force all the protesters to leave.
Shop workers and passersby caught in the police action, including a couple with a baby, were taken to hospitals in police cars and ambulances.
The bill, which had not yet been signed by President Abdullah Gul, would authorize the head of the state telecommunications agency to block, without court approval, access to any website considered to violate the right to privacy.
It also would allow Internet users' browser histories to be saved for up to two years.
Pınar Turenc, president of the Turkish Press Council, recently noted the amendment was considered as four former Cabinet ministers and a son of the prime minister were being investigated for corruption.
Umut Oran, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party, has charged the legislation violates the constitution and would turn the Internet into a "portal of the prime minister."