(Moscow) – The Russian parliament adopted amendments to the “foreign agents” law on May 25, 2016, without promised improvements to relieve pressure on independent groups, Human Rights Watch said today. President Vladimir Putin should not sign the bill into law.
The bill amended the definition of “political activity,” one of two yardsticks Russia’s Justice Ministry uses to forcibly register nongovernmental organizations as “foreign agents”. In the original law, the term was loosely defined, opening the way to misinterpretation. But under the amendments, which define the term more extensively, almost any advocacy or research activity by an independent group constitutes political activity if it is aimed at somehow influencing the government or public opinion. That includes legal or policy analysis, monitoring the work of government institutions, public opinion surveys, research, and petitioning government officials.