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Turkish Protesters Take to Streets Over Online Restrictions

Turkish riot police takes cover behind their shields as fireworks shot by protesters explode in front of them. JIVAN GUNER / EPA

Anger over new controls over the Internet boiled onto Istanbul’s streets Saturday, with police using water cannons and tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, Reuters reports.

The new controls, approved by the Turkish parliament this week, allows the government to block websites on privacy grounds without court orders. The opposition calls it an attempt to stifle discussion of a corruption scandal that emerged Dec. 17 with the arrest of former cabinet ministers close to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Reuters reported that demonstrators threw stones and set off fireworks aimed at police advancing behind armored vehicles along Istikal Avenue, then scattered. "Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption," some chanted – a variation of an anti-government slogan used in protests last summer.

The government says the Internet reform is aimed at protecting individual privacy, not gagging critics.

Since the scandal broke, Erdogan's government has purged hundreds of police, sought tighter control of the courts and fired executives from banking and telecom regulators and state television.

-- Reuters and AP

Image: A protester clashes with riot police
A protester clashes with riot police during a protest against the Turkish government's newly proposed restrictions on the use of internet, on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul, on Feb. 8, 2014. OZAN KOSE / AFP - Getty Images
Image: Protesters are hit by water cannons
Protesters are hit by water cannons. BULENT KILIC / AFP - Getty Images
Image: A man carrying a baby runs away from tear gas
A man carrying a baby runs away from tear gas during the protests. OZAN KOSE / AFP - Getty Images
Image: A shop owner holds his head in reaction to a protest
A shop owner holds his head in reaction to a protest against the Turkish government's newly proposed restrictions on the use of internet on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul. BULENT KILIC / AFP - Getty Images