Russia’s ruling party wants to extend the provisions of new NGO regulations to the media, reports suggest.
United Russia says that media outlets receiving funding from abroad should be designated “foreign agents” in the same manner that civil society groups are to be branded following legislation passed last week.
The Duma may consider in the fall a bill that would brand as “foreign agents” media outlets that receive more than 50 percent of their financing from abroad, Izvestia reported Monday, citing United Russia Deputies Vladimir Burmatov and Ilya Kostunov as its sources.
The Duma’s new NGO provisions classify some foreign-financed NGOs as “foreign agents” but make exception for state organizations financed from abroad, says Pavel Gutiontov, secretary of the Union of Journalists of Russia:
State-financed English-language TV channel Russia Today had to secure an exemption last week in the NGO bill to avoid being labeled a foreign agent, since it is officially registered as a nongovernmental organization and receives payments from Google and YouTube, which are U.S. companies.
The new NGO laws amount to “blackmail by the government,” said Grigory A. Melkonyants, the deputy director of Golos, Russia’s only independent election-monitoring group:
Golos would seek an exemption by trying to prove in court that it does not engage in political activity. If that fails, he said, the group will consider becoming a business, to avoid the “foreign agent” classification. “There is no other option for us,” Mr. Melkonyants said.
Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident who leads Moscow Helsinki Group, called the law “despicable” and said she would dismiss staff members and stop raising money before being branded a “foreign agent.”
The Duma had become “hysterical,” said a statement from the Memorial human rights group:
After the passage of the judicially illiterate and extremely dangerous political changes to the legislation on demonstrations, the State Duma has helter-skelter brought changes to the law on nongovernmental organizations. The speed with which this is being done is striking. One might think that the enemy is already at the gates of the capital and only changes to this law will save the fatherland.
Golos, Memorial and the Moscow Helsinki Group are supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.