* Authorities given more power to block websites
* Telecoms regulator reports to prime minister's office
* Opposition says new law too broad
By Ozge Ozbilgin
ANKARA, Sept 9 Turkey's parliament passed a law
tightening Internet controls and expanding the powers of its
telecoms authority late on Monday, weeks after a new government
took office pledging the beginning of a "new Turkey".
The move comes on top of legislation passed in February that
made it easier for the authorities to block access to web pages
without a prior court order, prompting public anger and raising
concern about free speech.
The new law expands those powers, allowing the TIB telecoms
authority to block sites if it is deemed necessary for matters
of "national security, the restoration of public order and the
prevention of crimes". The February law limited these powers to
cases of privacy violations.
The new legislation also gives the TIB, which reports to the
prime minister's office, access to individuals' browsing history
without a court order.
The reforms are part of the first package of legislation
passed by parliament since Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister for
more than a decade, was sworn in as president last month.
Erdogan won Turkey's first popular vote for the presidency
on Aug. 10 after one of his most difficult years in office,
rebounding from protests against his perceived authoritarianism
last summer and a corruption scandal a few months later.
February's law was seen by government critics as part of a
bid to stifle the corruption investigations after alleged
recordings of ministers and Erdogan were leaked on social media.
Erdogan cast the scandal as a plot orchestrated by his
ally-turned-foe, U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen,
whose followers wield influence in the police and judiciary.
Following the leaked recordings, Turkey blocked access to
Twitter in March, drawing international criticism.
The text of the new law, which must now be approved by
Erdogan, said it aimed to prevent delays in acting against
violations of national security and public order threats.
A deputy from the main opposition CHP party said the vague
wording gave the telecoms authority too broad a scope.
"This could lead to arbitrary practises," CHP deputy Aydin
Ayaydin told Reuters, saying it was "extremely wrong" to give
the authority to block such access to an institution which
reports directly to the government.
Turkey already has strict Internet laws under which
thousands of websites have been blocked, from news portals
viewed as close to Kurdish militants to gay dating sites.
(Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Nick Tattersall)