The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin on Monday (December 2, 2019) passed a law that would label private individuals and independent journalists as foreign agents based on their source of funding. Individuals receiving funds from abroad would be labelled as foreign agents, which holds a negative connotation since the year 2012 when it was passed for the first time.
However, the law passed in 2012 only had non-governmental organisations and human rights bodies under its ambit. Extending the application of the term to individuals could prove fatal for freedom of speech and expression in the country. The law permits the government to keep a tab and impose restrictions on individual bloggers and reporters of Russia who would now be called foreign agents for distributing foreign materials (research funded by foreign bodies). People termed as foreign agents by the Russian Justice Ministry would have to undergo intense bureaucratic supervision. This law will impose nationwide restrictions on media freedom in the country. Foreign agents would have to file regular reports to disclose their sources of funding, their objectives for working or publishing material on a specific subject, their list of expenditure and also information regarding their managers.
Many rights groups, non-governmental organizations and private individuals, including a body called the ‘Human Rights Watch’ have led protests to urge the lawmakers to drop this draconian piece of legislation, but to no avail. This is not first time that Russia has demonstrated the implementation of regressive laws. The country has a history of jailing its prominent leaders, arresting artists for badly portraying the President’s actions, arresting members of the LGBTQIA Community for having a “propaganda of homosexuality" which is banned in the country and putting behind bars anyone that criticises the actions of the Government in the name of treason. Human rights activists and lawyers constantly receive death threats for doing their jobs in Russia.