Published July 2012
Transparency International calls on the Russian parliament to reject the proposed amendments under discussion this week to the law governing non-governmental organisations.
The new regulations, if passed, would severely limit civil society’s ability to hold governments to account and would misrepresent what non-governmental organisations do.
“Singling out organisations that work on legitimate public issues, such as access to information, the rule of law and whistle-blower protection, and labelling them “agents of foreign influence” is completely wrong and sends an ominous message to the people of Russia who took to the streets more than 20 years ago to fight for their freedoms,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International.
“If these amendments are adopted in Russia, it will set a precedent in the region and could curtail the work of civil society organisations that promote freedom of association elsewhere,” added Labelle.
“Transparency International Russia is an organisation with 37 committed employees and more than 200 volunteers, all Russian, who work on anti-corruption issues and the rule of law because we believe in them. The new law is an affront to our dignity as Russians, our integrity as an organisation and we will fight its implementation,” said Elena Panfilova, Executive Director of Transparency International Russia and a member of the international board of Transparency International, which has chapters in more than 90 countries worldwide.
The new regulations are aimed at organisations that engage in "political activities" and receive foreign funds. The text does not define political activities and the word in Russian for politics and policy is the same. This makes it impossible for organisations to know what would provoke actions against them. The amendments would also allow the Ministry of Justice to investigate these organisations at will and place significant additional reporting burdens on them.
"Transparency International Russia is preparing a request to the Constitutional Court in Russia asking for clarification on what the law would mean," said Elena Panfilova.
“In addition, Transparency International Russia intends to start a public campaign arguing that the law does not work for the purpose of transparency but divides Russian society and undermines trust of Russian people in civic activism”.