Russian NGOs object to ‘foreign agents’ label

The Russian government has forcibly registered five high-profile activist groups as ‘foreign agents,’ a term that the groups say carries connotations of espionage and unfairly discredits them in the public domain.

By Tamsin Walker

Deutsche Welle

Russian human and civil rights activists face continued challenges from the country’s “foreign agent” law, which was signed in July 2012, less than three months after Vladimir Putin’s presidential comeback.

Requiring politically active organizations that receive funding from overseas to register as “foreign agents,” the first incarnation of the legislation formed the basis for a nationwide campaign to inspect, warn and fine NGOs.

When it became apparent that activists were not going to voluntarily label themselves as something they say they are not, the Kremlin amended the law this spring to give the Ministry of Justice the right to register groups as “foreign agents” without their consent.

A matter of days after Putin signed the new bill, the first NGOs were forcibly put on the list. It has since grown, most recently to include five of the country’s most outspoken human rights and environmental groups.

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