The lower house of the Russian parliament on Friday voted to adopt a controversial bill [materials, in Russian] that will regulate the activities of non-commercial organizations (NCOs) that engage in political activity and receive foreign funding. The new law will require the organizations to register as "foreign agents," and to submit biannual reports to the government on their activities. The State Duma [official website] adopted the legislation despite concerns from UN experts [JURIST report] that the law would limit free expression. The experts also noted that the Russian term translated as "foreign agent" has a negative connotation and can be associated with espionage. The bill is described by its authors as a mechanism to "ensure openness and transparency in the activities of nonprofit organizations."
Russia has been criticized recently for controversial legislation. The Duma on Wednesday approved [JURIST report] the third reading of a controversial Internet regulation bill. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia had shut down its site [JURIST report] on Tuesday in a one-day protest of the legislation, which it said in an article "may become the basis for real censorship on the internet." In June Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law [JURIST report] a controversial bill which greatly increases penalties for protesters who violate demonstration regulations. In May prominent Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekeyev became the first to be convicted [JURIST report] under a St. Petersburg city ordinance that prohibits the spreading "homosexual propaganda" to minors. People who oppose the new law, which was introduced in November and signed into law [JURIST reports] in April, claim it will prevent gay rights groups from being able to assemble in public.