Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law which has given authorities the power to shut down any NGO deemed as ‘undesirable’. The law will see any foreign-backed or international NGOs to be shut down, along with jail time for those who break the rules. Activists are concerned that this will cause even more pressure in an already difficult civil society.
The term ‘undesirable’ has not been very well defined within this new law, leaving it quite open to interpretation by both the NGO owners and the authorities. Many people believe that due to the lack of definition the ‘undesirable’ term will be abused. The new law states that any ‘undesirable’ foreign or international NGO may be shut down by the authorities. Not only that but there will be fines, movement restrictions, and even jail time, for those who violate the new laws. This has actually been built up around a law that was passed in 2012, that called some groups ‘foreign agents’ for any funding they received abroad or political activities. Even groups such as Amnesty International have seen authorities on their doorstep, under the foreign agents law.
Clamping down on Critical Voices
Many believe that Putin is determined to clamp down on critical voices. Activists and rights groups have long been worried about the growing number of laws that impact their freedom of speech. They believe that the ‘undesirable’ organizations are most likely to be liberal rights groups, ecologists and anyone who campaigns for equal rights. Pavel Chikov, an expert in the subject, believes that these groups are being targeted because they’re considered “a risk to the current political regime”. He also believes that authorities are now already looking into groups such as Human Rights Watch, in order to bring prosecutions quickly.
USA Weighs in
Spokespeople from the US were quick to criticize the new ruling, especially on the point that an organization can be declared undesirable without any court proceedings. They’ve expressed their concerns that Russia is cracking down on independent voices and this will restrict any kind of civil society in the country.