Further criticism of bill on “foreign agents”
Mikhail Fedotov, Chair of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, has stated that even taking the amendments put forward by the MP, Yaroslav Nilov, into account, the likelihood is that any public activity could be regarded as a “political” act.
In an interview with Moscow Komsomolets, Fedotov explained that Nilov’s amendments to the Bill clarifying the meaning of “political activity” under the “foreign agents” law are not enough to improve the text of the Bill. The effect of these amendments if approved could mean that any public activity whether undertaken, say, by “a garage cooperative or yoga club” will be seen as “political”, he added.
The text of the Bill approved on First Reading stated that “political activities” did not include those in areas of science, culture, art, public health, social services and support, citizen protection, in particular mothers and children, social support for the disabled, promoting healthy lifestyles, physical culture and sport, charity work and those that support philanthropy and volunteerism, provided such activities are not politically motivated. Nilov has offered to withdraw the final clause from the Bill and just limit himself to the exclusions referred to above.
On her personal Facebook page, Ekaterina Chistyakov, President of the Give Life charity, said that while Nilov’s suggested text was not ideal, it could help protect the legal status of SONGOs in its current form. “The best outcome would be to have a text that states that an organisation must prove it is acting in the interests of and (or) on behalf of a foreign client in order for it to be classed as a “foreign agent”. I’d also like to see the definition of “political activity” extended to elections and the work of political parties”, she added.
The Duma will be discussing the Bill’s Second Reading on 17 May. The approved First Reading text attracted criticism from the entire NGO community, as well as concerns from charities. A petition to the State Duma, organised by the Everyone Together charity, has been signed by nearly 6,000 people. Artists, charity founders and trustees have called on Vladimir Putin to recommend that his MPs amend the Bill.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin