Duma passes First Reading of bill on ‘political activity’
The Russian State Duma has adopted the First Reading of a Ministry of Justice Bill aimed at clarifying the meaning of “political activity” under the “foreign agents” law. According to the newspaper “Kommersant”, 381 MPs voted in favour, 2 against, and 60 abstained. The deadline for submission of amendments is 10 May.
Yaroslav Nilov, Chair of the Duma’s Committee on the Activities of Public Associations and Religious Organisations, stated “Human rights activists have complained that the current wording in the Bill is vague and ambiguous. This has been the subject of much discussion in committee where a number of charities have raised specific concerns. Consequently, the Russian Liberal Democratic Party decided against voting for the Bill as they realised that more work needed to be done to improve the wording”. Earlier, Nilov had said that any amendments would be discussed in a working group should the First Reading be adopted.
The NGO community fears that the Justice Ministry’s Bill, which was submitted to the State Duma in February this year, will hit charities hard. A petition submitted to the Duma, organised by the Everyone Together charity, was signed by over 5,500 people. Artists, charity founders and trustees have also called on the Russian President to recommend that his MPs amend the Bill. On 21 April, the Federation’s Public Chamber will hold a public hearing to discuss this draft legislation, the results of which will be used by experts in drawing up recommendations to clarify the wording in the text.
According to Mikhail Fedotov, Chair of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC), adopting the Bill in its current form will only cause harm. The HRC believes that the Justice Ministry’s Bill runs counter to Vladimir Putin’s instruction as it increases, rather than reduces, the possibility of NGOs being classed as “foreign agents”.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin