Thursday, February 21, 2008
In a report released yesterday entitled, “Choking on Bureaucracy: State Curbs on Independent Civil Society Activism,” Human Rights Watch accused the Russian government of seeking to suppress nonprofit organizations whose views or activities are at odds with government policies. Here is an excerpt from the summary:
Over the past eight years, the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin has engaged in efforts to weaken beyond recognition the checks and balances inherent in a truly democratic political system. A recent aspect of these efforts has been a policy to subject Russia’s vibrant civil society to greater scrutiny and control, through a 2006 law that gives the government broad powers to regulate the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The government has also used other measures, such as the amended 2002 anti-extremism law and a variety of administrative regulations, to target organizations that work on controversial issues, may be capable of galvanizing public dissent, or that receive foreign funding. This report documents the corrosive impact the 2006 law and other government measures have had on civil society in Russia. It demonstrates how these policies are aimed at weakening critical voices in Russia and have profoundly undermined independent activism.
In a related press release, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kennoth Roth said “with the new rules, NGOs live under a looming threat of harassment, and this is a serious threat to freedom of expression in Russia.”