A bill imposing restrictions on the internet presents Turkey’s president with a dilemma

Will he or won’t he? All eyes are on Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, a co-founder with the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party. A bill imposing drastic curbs on the internet, which critics say would put Turkey on a par with Iran and China, has been rammed through the AK-dominated parliament, to howls of protest from the opposition and the European Union. The bill lets Turkey’s telecommunications authority (TIB) block any website without first seeking a court ruling. It also allows TIB arbitrarily to efface “offensive” content without users being any the wiser. And it obliges internet-service providers to store all data on web users’ activities for two years and to give their profiles to the authorities on demand.Pressure is mounting on Mr Gul, an avid user of Twitter, not to sign the bill. “Stand tall,” appealed Cuneyt Ozdemir, a current-affairs host at CNN Turk. “The last thing Turkey needs right now is more censorship,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby group. The government says the law is needed to defend “the sanctity of personal privacy”. Some AK deputies have suggested that its critics are acting on behalf of a “pornography lobby”. More probably, its aim is to stop a slew of secretly taped recordings, compiled by prosecutors to document the bribery, tender-rigging and money-laundering charges being levelled against AK ministers and their relations, from being accessed online.

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