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Rights groups criticize Russia laws restricting free speech

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites] on Wednesday criticized for limiting freedom of speech since Vladimir Putin [BBC profile] returned to the presidency. HRW's report [text] calls the restrictive laws "unprecedented" in Russia's post-Soviet history. Amnesty International's report [text, PDF] focused on the multiple new laws and amendments passed in the last year that they claim infringe on individual liberty. Russia's "foreign agents" law [JURIST report] was among the laws mentioned and requires any group receiving foreign funding and engaging in "political activities" to register as a "foreign agent." Russia's government has not yet responded to the reports.

Russia has recently faced criticism by other groups over the country's laws restricting personal liberty. In February a group of UN human rights experts urged Russian lawmakers to reject proposed legislation [JURIST report] banning the dissemination of homosexual "propaganda" to minors. Members of Russian feminist rock band Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] were convicted [JURIST report] and given a two-year prison sentence on hooliganism charges. Last July the UN urged [JURIST report] Russia to reject the bill regulating the activities of non-commercial organizations that engage in political activity and receive foreign funding.

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