Three UN experts on Thursday urged [press release] the Russian State Duma [official website] not 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 special rapporteurs on freedom of association, human rights defenders and freedom of expression expressed particular concern that the law would require the organizations to register as "foreign agents," noting that the Russian term translated as "foreign agents" has a negative connotation that could be associated with espionage. The bill, which is described by its authors as a mechanism to "ensure openness and transparency in the activities of nonprofit organizations," requires NCOs to register with the government, where their publications and activities will be strictly monitored. The three UN experts criticized the legislation, saying it would limit free expression and stigmatize activities of legitimate groups.
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.