Friday, July 13, 2012

"Foreign agents" bill

Last week, Russia's lower house of parliament (Duma), approved a bill that would label internationally funded NGOs (non-governmental organizations) as "foreign agents". The bill was overwhelmingly approved in an initial vote (323-4 in favour). Almost all of Russia's political parties in the Duma supported it, even the Russian Communist Party. The bill does not ban NGOs in Russia, but wants them to be honest about their purpose and activities.

They will be slapped with a "foreign agent" status and will have to report on their activities twice a year. NGOs that receive international funding are subject to the bill. The NGOs that fail to mention that they are internationally funded would face fines and have their registration suspended. The US State Department has been funding NGOs in Russia and Eastern Europe in recent years.

These NGOs often portray themselves as humans rights organizations to help people, but are actually there to destabilize the host country politically. They will often support opposition parties who are against the government. The supporters of the "foreign agents" bill say that the US has something similar in their country. The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), was created in 1938 to guard against Nazi propaganda just before the Second World War.

This is also very significant in Hungary's case as there are many foreign NGOs operating inside of the country. The US government in recent months has also been quite critical of Hungary with regards to the recent media law and new constitution. The Russian bill on foreign funded NGOs is something Hungary should consider as US criticism against the Hungarian government was loud and clear recently.

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