MOSCOW, February 4 (RAPSI) – The St. Petersburg-based Freedom of Information Foundation has filed a complaint against the prosecutor office’s request that it register with the Justice Ministry as a “foreign agent.”
The request was issued after the NGO’s founder attended a meeting of human rights activists with US President Barack Obama during the G20 summit last September, the Kommersant newspaper reported.
The Freedom of Information Foundation (also known as the Institute for Information Freedom Development or IRSI) is an NGO set up to study, analyze and resolve issues of individuals’ and organizations’ access to information of importance to society.
In July, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika reported to the parliament’s upper house on the results of NGO inspections aimed at exposing foreign agents and named the Freedom of Information Foundation as one of them.
The newspaper writes that the prosecutors requested that the foundation register as a foreign agent six months after Chaika delivered his report.
According to the request, the NGO’s first wrong move was publishing an article on amendments to the law on personal data on its website in August 2013. The article said that the goal of the new law was “clear and justified, in a manner of speaking,” giving prosecutors the right to quickly acquire and process any restricted information and personal data.
The foundation’s second misstep was that its founder, lawyer Ivan Pavlov, attended Obama’s pit-stop meeting with human rights activists after the G20 summit in St. Petersburg. The prosecutors concluded that “the US president was informed about the current political and social situation in Russia.”
A federal law was passed in November 2012 requiring all NGOs engaged in political activity and receiving foreign funding to register as “foreign agents” or face fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($14,000).
In February 2013, 11 Russian NGOs, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, lodged a complaint against the law with the European Court of Human Rights.
Inspections of NGOs began in late March 2013. The Justice Ministry said its goal was to check that these organizations’ activities corresponded with the objectives of their charters and Russian legislation.
President Vladimir Putin has said he sees no reason to toughen or liberalize the law, but merely believes in putting things in their proper order.