Turkey gives poor families free access to 'useful' websites

  • AFP, Istanbul
  • Updated: Mar 10, 2015 22:16 IST

Turkey's development ministry said Tuesday it will give low-income families free Internet access, although they'll have to pay for websites not approved by the government.

The announcement on state-run Anatolia news agency came amid growing concerns over what critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan describe as a crackdown on online freedoms.

The development ministry said it planned to give priority to families with school-aged children in a bid to expand online access in a country where a 2014 government survey found 43 percent of households were without Internet.

Respondents in the survey mainly said they did not need Internet, or that it was too expensive.

However, beneficiaries of the new government scheme will only be given free access to websites deemed "useful" by the authorities, Anatolia's report said.

Users who wish to browse other websites have to start paying once they exceed a certain quota, according to Anatolia, which gave no further details.

Erdogan has been credited with turning around the Turkish economy and with improving the living standard of the country's poor, with GDP per capita almost doubling since he came to power.

But critics accuse Erdogan, prime minister from 2003 until he became president in August, of increasing authoritarianism, particularly following anti-government protests that rocked the country in 2013.

His government temporarily blocked Twitter and YouTube last year after they were used to spread audio recordings implicating Erdogan and his inner circle in a corruption scandal and pushed through a law curbing the Internet.

Turkey in February topped the list of countries seeking content removal, filing over five times more content removal requests to Twitter than any other country in the second half of last year.

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