News

Foreign NGOs in Russia Face Controversial New Restrictions

Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, has passed a controversial bill, on first reading, that would put new restrictions on foreign charities and human rights groups operating in Russia. Human Rights Watch and other independent rights monitors say the bill aims to totally destroy civil society development in Russia in favor of stronger Kremlin control.

The bill reportedly fast-tracked for consideration by all four factions in the Duma would forbid Russian charities and not-for-profit organizations (or NGOs) from accepting foreign funding for political activities. It would also bar international organizations from having representative or branch offices in Russia or hiring non-Russian workers. Additionally, it would grant the government-wide oversight over such organizations, which presently number around 450,000 in Russia.

Reacting to the proposals in a written statement this week, Human Rights Watch said the proposed law would, in its words, "eviscerate civil society in Russia." The group adds that the measures are especially alarming, given that it says the Kremlin has neutralized other key checks and balances by eliminating most independent media, installing a pliant parliament, and undermining the independence of the Russian judiciary.

The Director of the Moscow branch of Human Rights Watch, Alexander Petrov, told a recent news conference his organization will fight the proposed changes from becoming law in every way possible. Still, Mr. Petrov says he fears the moves will mean a retreat to Soviet-style repression of the last independent voices capable of criticizing the Russian government.

Mr. Petrov vows that if the bill is passed, rights activists will simply return to methods used during Soviet days. Namely, he says they will be forced to pose as tourists or relatives in order to meet with Russian dissidents and provide mostly informational support, rather than direct project assistance. He characterizes the potential change as "sad," but asks what else is there to do in Russia's ever-changing reality where he says nothing is sacred.

Earlier this year, President Putin told human rights experts in a Kremlin meeting that Russia would no longer allow foreign organizations to finance political activities, believing them to be exerting undue influence in Russia's internal affairs. Some observers say the move reflects the Kremlin's suspicion of such bodies, following the political revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan - traditional zones of Soviet influence.

Duma Deputy Igor Igoshin stands by the proposals and denies that anything untoward is being rushed through Russia's parliament.

Mr. Igoshin says the essence of the new law is not about interference, but restricting convicted criminals, suspected terrorists, and foreigners who have lived less than one year in Russia from founding any such organizations.

The proposed changes are triggering heated debate, and not just among the Russian and foreign human rights community. President Bush also raised concerns about the proposal in confidence during his recent talks with President Putin in South Asia. The bill still has to go through further readings and requires President Putin's signature before it becomes law.

Yegeniy Yasin, a research manager at an Economic Institute, told Russian radio (Echo Moscow) that the new law is so vaguely worded in his view that, if passed, almost any reason could be found to close a foreign non-governmental organization.

Mr. Yasin says the key question for him, and countless others, is just what exactly will be considered to be political activities. Is promoting democracy a political activity, he asks, or is it just people who work with traditional civil society issues like elections, free media, and free speech?

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs