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Tear down these regulations! Dozens of newsrooms, nonprofits, charities, and education groups come together to demand the repeal of Russia’s draconian legislation on ‘foreign agents’

Source: Meduza

Newsrooms, NGOs, charities, and other public organizations and initiatives from around Russia have joined in support of a petition demanding the repeal of repressive legislation on “foreign agents.” More than 150 of the country’s most important groups have already endorsed the petition, and now you have the opportunity to show your support at Change.org, as well. You can sign the petition right here. Ending the Russian authorities’ assault on the free press is crucial to the nation’s future. 

This message (content) was created and (or) distributed by a foreign mass media outlet executing the functions of a foreign agent and (or) a Russian legal entity executing the functions of a foreign agent.

Since the start of 2021, Russia’s Justice Ministry has designated six newsrooms, 20 journalists, and seven NGOs as so-called foreign agents. These individuals and organizations joined a list of 221 other “foreign agents” added to the authorities’ registry between 2013 and 2020. We view these events as a government campaign to pressure Russia’s free press and public organizations, and we maintain that the “foreign agent” legislation itself and its enforcement measures are intended to weaken the institutions of Russian civil society. 

Openly discriminatory and unlawful, the law on “foreign agents” violates both Russia’s Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The real impact of landing on Russia’s “foreign agent” registry is clear:

  • Many organizations are forced to cease operations and dissolve. Others face the constant risk of audits and forced liquidation. The authorities adopt stricter and stricter regulations, which are deliberately designed to make full compliance impossible.
  • “Foreign agents” also risk felony prosecution that can result in fines or even up to five years in prison. Earlier this summer, a judge already handed down one of these criminal sentences.
  • Organizations risk multi-million-ruble fines and bankruptcy for the slightest regulatory violation (whether it concerns filing requirements that Justice Ministry experts can interpret liberally or rules on labeling “foreign agent” content). 
  • News organizations lose ad revenue and information sources.
  • NGOs face more and more restrictions, including a ban on nominating candidates for public monitoring commissions, conducting anti-corruption investigations, and organizing public events.
  • So-called “individual foreign agents” are required to add a special warning about their status to each and every public statement (including posts and comments on social media) and report to the Russian authorities not just about their earnings but also every ruble they spend. This is an unprecedented invasion of privacy. Nothing justifies such demands. These requirements openly mock people and insult their dignity as human beings.
  • This diminishes the rights of all Russians. The public’s access to independent sources of information is narrowing, and the organizations that help people are growing weaker.
Please consider signing the petition at Change.org right here.

Nine years ago, since lawmakers adopted the first version of Russia’s legislation on “foreign agents” in June 2012, the authorities have promised endlessly to revisit the law and correct its enforcement. Instead of rectification, however, the authorities have only strengthened and expanded the regulations. Today, the legislation applies not only to nonprofit organizations but also to newsrooms. Also, the law demands not just transparency reports and public labeling but also imposes direct prohibitions. “Foreign agency” isn’t even limited to organizations anymore. The Justice Ministry can now designate literally anyone in Russia as a “foreign agent.”

In addition to persecuting civic groups and newsrooms, it appears the authorities will turn their attention to educators, charities, and cultural institutions. In other words, the Justice Ministry and other federal agencies will begin targeting the initiatives that rely on the public, not the state, to sustain their work.

We harbor no illusions here, but we understand that there are times and situations where the only realistic option is to demand the impossible. Russia’s law on “foreign agents” must be repealed entirely.

We call on the news media, NGOs, charities, and other groups to join our demands. Write to us at petition@meduza.io.

As of September 14, 2021, these are the groups that have joined in calling for the repeal of Russia’s repressive legislation on “foreign agents”:

*Russia’s Justice Ministry has designated these organizations as “foreign agents.”

Sign the petition at Change.org!

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

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