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MPs pass internet censorship law

Turkish MPs approved internet controls enabling web pages to be blocked within four hours

Turkish MPs approved internet controls on Wednesday night enabling web pages to be blocked within four hours.

But the opposition decried the measure as part of a government bid to stifle a corruption scandal with methods more suitable to "times of coups."

The Bill provided for telecommunications authorities to block access to material within four hours without a prior court order, tightening restrictions imposed in a widely criticised law adopted in 2007.

Social media and video sharing sites have been awash with recordings of ministers, including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, and businessmen close to him presented as evidence of wrongdoing.

"This is against the constitution. Bans like this exist in times of coups and have not been able to conceal any corruption," opposition Republican People's Party deputy Umut Oran told the general assembly.

The legislation, which still needs the approval of President Abdullah Gul, will also allow for the storage of individuals' browsing histories for up to two years.

Scandal erupted on December 17 with the arrest of businessmen close to Mr Erdogan and three ministers' sons.

The prime minister has portrayed the fiasco as an attempt to undermine him in the run-up to presidential elections.

His government has responded by purging the police and judiciary, reassigning thousands of police officers and dozens of prosecutors.

"The latest regulations are not censorship and are not a ban," ruling Justice and Development Party deputy Necdet Unuvar claimed. "They are regulations to protect the confidentiality of private life."

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