Turkish police fire tear gas at anti-government protest

Protests broke out over the Internet bill which allows the government to censor internet activity among other invasive practices

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Turkish riot police fired tear gas and plastic bullets to break up a protest Saturday by an estimated 2,000 people against the embattled government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Government resign," and "All united against fascism," protesters chanted at Istanbul's Taksim Square, some of them hurling fireworks and stones at police.

"Everywhere Taksim, everywhere resistance," they shouted, using the slogan of last June's anti-government protests that first erupted in the square.

The demonstration was organized in protest at plans to impose curbs on the Internet and over the graft scandal rocking the government.

It broke up after the police action without any immediate reports of injuries or arrests.

The Internet bill, which would allow officials to keep a record of the activities of web users and block keywords deemed problematic, was approved by a parliamentary committee on Thursday despite concerns about censorship.

It had raised an outcry among rights groups and even business leaders who feared the bill would further limit fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey.

But the government said it is aimed at protecting people's privacy and blocking Internet content such as pornography and child sex abuse.

"This legal arrangement is by no means a regulation that brings censorship," Communications Minister Lutfi Elvan has said. "With the new legal arrangement, we intend to protect individual rights."

The Islamic-leaning Erdogan is nevertheless accused of becoming increasingly authoritarian and of trying to impose greater government controls on all sectors of the traditionally secular society.

Erdogan, whose image was already bruised by last year's massive anti-government street protests, has faced more demonstrations in the wake of the damaging corruption scandal.

A string of public figures including top businessmen and the sons of three ministers were detained in December over allegations of bribery for construction projects as well as illicit money transfers to sanctions-hit Iran.

Several demonstrations have been held since last month to demand Erdogan's resignation, with police on occasion firing plastic bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters.