‘Foreign agent’ NGOs not reporting correctly
Ministry of Justice demands electronic reports from “foreign agents”
The Russian Ministry of Justice has warned a number of NGOs identified as “foreign agents” that they were required in January 2015 to provide reports in both written and electronic form. The Ministry deemed the NGOs to have ignored the requirement to provide an electronic report. The organisations which received the warnings say that in January the Ministry’s website would not allow them to submit such a report.
At the beginning of July, a number of organisations forcibly entered onto the “foreign agents” register received warnings from the Ministry of Justice about the inadmissibility of violating current legislation, reports Kommersant. According to the publication, the organisations which received warnings include, in particular, Public Verdict Foundation, Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg and the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information.
The Ministry considers that the “foreign agents” violated the reporting procedure, according to which organisations are obliged to report to the Ministry of Justice once every six months in writing by post, as well as electronically through the Ministry’s website. The warnings received by the NGOs stated that in January 2015 they did not report to the Ministry of Justice in electronic form.
In January there was no form to accommodate these reports on the Ministry’s website, the press secretary of Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg, Alexandr Peredruk, told the newspaper, and therefore responsibility rests with the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry clarified to the publication that NGOs can also post electronic reports on their websites and on the government’s public services website. Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg posted the report on their website, but they received a warning nonetheless.
It was in fact impossible to upload the report to the Ministry’s website, confirmed the Director of Public Verdict Foundation Natalia Taubina. “We sent a report by post and published a copy on our website. The Ministry of Justice’s warning said that they could not find it on the website. It is there, most likely they just didn’t look”, said Taubina.
Today the form for providing a report on the Ministry of Justice website, though not perfect, works, stressed Taubina: human rights activists intend to upload the report onto the Ministry’s website and provide evidence of this on their organisation’s own website. “I hope that the warning will be lifted”, says Taubina.
This is not the Ministry of Justice’s first complaint about reporting by “foreign agents”: in May 2015 a number of NGOs on the “foreign agents” register received invitations to compile reports on administrative offences. The Ministry maintained that the organisations had violated the reporting rules by failing to submit reports at the appointed time. On that occasion the human rights activists were able to prove to the Ministry that the reports were submitted on time.
It is important that these warnings are settled or recognised as unlawful, emphasises Taubina, since in the current legislation there is a ruling on the liquidation of NGOs which have been issued with repeated warnings.
Author: Georgi Ivanushkin