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Thousands march in Istanbul to demand end to Internet censorship

(BIANET/IFEX) - 19 July 2010 - On 17 July, about 2,000 people gathered in the popular Taksim Square on Istanbul's European side to protest against restrictions on the internet. Among the demonstrators were non-governmental organizations calling for internet freedom, professional organizations, website representatives and their readers, employees of private enterprises who are affected by internet censorship and human rights activists.

The participants shouted slogans like "Raise, raise, raise your voice on the street", "There is no escape on your own - either all together or none". Banners read "Don't click away our freedom" and "No censorship for political sites".

The Initiative for a Censorship-Free Internet issued a statement before the demonstration. The initiative announced that they organized the march because they thought citizens' freedom of expression and right to be informed should not be restricted. The initiative emphasized that they were going to seek a solution on the street.

The statement was read out by Deniz Kaynak. He said, "We can no longer accept the mindset of unlawful and arbitrary applications in order to control the internet". The organizers of the protest action and its supporters appreciated the attention given to the demonstration. Kaynak also made reference to Law No. 5651, which dictates what can and cannot be published online.

BIANET talked to Bulent Aydin from the Equality and Democracy Party (EDP), Alper Celikel, General Manager of the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV), Serdar Kuzuloglu from "Radikal" newspaper, Mustafa Akgul, President of the Internet Technology Association (INETD), Yaman Akdeniz from Bilgi University and Erhan Karakay, Head of the Electric Engineers Chamber, Istanbul Branch. They were all impressed by the number of participants.

The protest action was furthermore supported by Ertugrul Kurkcu, coordinator of the BIANET project.

Aydin from the EDP said that many young people joined the demonstration because they think that their only place to be free has been taken over. "They want their voices to be heard on the streets since they cannot be heard on the internet platforms. This is the youngest and most dynamic protest action in recent times," he said. He also emphasized that Law No. 5651 is very problematic and that this demonstration was just the beginning of the protest: "We will always be against internet censorship just as we are supporting this first protest action".

Akgul from INETD pointed out that the large participation in the demonstration was a positive sign and that they were going to continue their struggle for internet freedom.

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