Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] on Saturday signed into law a bill that labels all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that engage in political activity as "foreign agents" and requires them to register with the Justice Ministry before receiving any foreign funding. Opponents of this new law, which was passed [JURIST report] by the Russian Federation Council [official website] on Wednesday, say that its purpose is to curb free speech [RFE/RL report] and limit information available to the public. The law has garnered international attention, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recently expressed concern [UN News Centre report] about "a worrying shift in the legislative environment governing the enjoyment of the freedoms of assembly, association, speech and information." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] also recently expressed concern [transcript] over the impacts the law will have in restricting free speech. Putin, however, met with the State Duma two days after it approved [JURIST report] the law, and said [press release] he thought the decisions made by the Duma in its spring session "were the right ones" and commended all of the changes made to its political process.
Rights groups and politicians in Russia have expressed concern over other recently passed laws they say are aimed at restricting civil rights. Earlier this month, Russian politicians asked [JURIST report] the country's constitutional court to review a recently passed law that increases penalties against protesters who violate regulations. The State Duma also recently approved a bill regulating Internet use that some fear the government will use to oppress speech. In May Russia also for the first time convicted a gay rights activist [JURIST report] under a law prohibiting the spread of "homosexual propaganda" to minors, which caused concern from human rights groups.