Journalists and NGOs will be able to obtain foreign agent status without foreign money

RBC got acquainted with the new draft law on foreign agents. It allows you to classify as them those who do not receive foreign funding, as well as commercial companies, if their activities are recognized as political

“Foreign Influence”

RBC got acquainted with the text of the draft law “On control over the activities of persons under foreign influence”. It was prepared by members of the State Duma commission to investigate the facts of interference of foreign states in the internal affairs of Russia; senators are also expected to be co-authors. The appearance of the bill was announced on April 21 at a meeting of the commission, it can be submitted to the Duma on Monday, April 25.

The bill formulates such concepts as “foreign agent”; and “foreign influence”.

The authors propose to consider a foreign agent a person “who has received support and (or) is under foreign influence in other forms”; and carrying out activities, the types of which are described in the draft law: political; purposeful collection of information in the field of military and military-technical activities of Russia; distribution of messages and materials intended for an unlimited circle of persons, as well as participation in the creation of such messages and materials.

Under foreign influence is meant the provision of support to a person by a foreign source (for example, a foreign state, its authorities, international organizations), the impact on this person, “including by coercion, persuasion”, as well as in other ways.

< p>When asked by RBC how it can be proved in practice that someone was influenced by coercion and persuasion, Deputy Chairman of the Commission Andrey Lugovoi explained that this wording was proposed for the first reading, and it is planned to “open” it for the second one. in details. According to him, in preparation for the second reading, legislators and representatives of civil society “will be able to look at the bill with a fresh eye.” and propose some additional amendments.

The support of a foreign source, the document says, means receiving foreign funding, organizational, methodological, scientific and technical assistance, assistance in other forms.

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It follows from the text of the bill that it will be possible to be classified as a foreign agent even without foreign funding or certain types of assistance, but, for example, as a result of the “influence” of foreign source. The rule that allows to recognize someone as a foreign agent without receiving funding and assistance already exists in the law “On Measures of Influence on Persons Involved in Violations of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms” and applies only to individuals, regardless of their citizenship (it does not currently apply to individuals who are recognized as foreign media agents).

Now this rule is proposed to be extended to all categories of foreign agents. As a possible reason for inclusion in the register, an RBC source in the State Duma gives the following example: “Let’s say if a person was trained abroad how to organize unauthorized rallies, and organizes such unauthorized events, that is, political activity on the territory of Russia, then this may be the basis for recognizing him as a foreign agent.

Vasily Piskarev, head of the commission to investigate the facts of interference of foreign states in the internal affairs of Russia, explained to RBC that the development of the project was dictated by the law enforcement practice of several years: firstly, it became clear that it would be more correct to combine all the requirements for foreign agents in one law, and secondly, it is necessary “define the concepts”, describing in detail what the status of a foreign agent means, explain the concept of “foreign influence”; etc. “The main goal of introducing our legislation on foreign agents is not prohibitive, not repressive, but rather informational, aimed at ensuring the transparency of their activities. If this activity does not contradict Russian legislation, but relies on outside support, our society has the right to know about the sources of foreign interference in the domestic political affairs of the country, — Piskarev said.

Unified registry

The bill, as RBC previously reported, provides for the emergence of a single registry of foreign agents instead of several existing ones.

Currently, the Ministry of Justice maintains four registers of foreign agents: NGOs, mass media (this register also includes individual journalists recognized by the media as foreign agents), unregistered public associations and individuals. There are only four defendants in the last register so far— journalists Matvey Ganapolsky and Yevgeny Kiselev, who live in Ukraine, as well as Alexei Navalny's associate Leonid Volkov and opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza.

The authors of the bill propose to recognize Russian or foreign legal entities as foreign agents, regardless of their organizational and legal form. Accordingly, commercial organizations can also be recognized as foreign agents.

When asked by RBC whether, for example, a company such as Coca-Cola could fall under the law, Piskarev explained that this was possible “if there are certain signs”: “To do this, the company must begin to conduct political activities in Russia, relying on foreign financing. If a company promotes a healthy lifestyle or provides charitable assistance to a nursing home, then this will not be grounds for recognizing it as a foreign agent. If she “will try to interfere in the activities of public authorities, put pressure on the adoption of any laws, try to influence the results of elections, organize rallies, marches, demonstrations, then here, as they say,” he is to blame, “added Piskarev .

According to the document, foreign agents will still have to use markings indicating their status. The wording from the draft law looks like this: “Materials (information) are produced, distributed and (or) sent by a foreign agent or relate to the activities of such an agent.” In the case of founders, members, participants, heads of a legal entity-foreign agent, the following wording is proposed: “materials (information) are produced, distributed and (or) sent by the founder, member, participant, head of the legal entity included in the register, or by a person included in the composition of the organ».

At the same time, it is proposed to exempt foreign agents from the obligation to mark messages of a domestic nature in social networks, retaining this requirement only for materials related to professional activities or the activity on the basis of which the foreign agent was included in the register, Deputy Minister of Justice Oleg Sviridenko said on April 21. A source familiar with the drafting of the bill explained to RBC that it would not be necessary to label personal messages, for example, about walking with a child or photographs of how a person decorates a Christmas tree. If a foreign agent writes a post in which, for example, he talks about political or economic topics, then in such cases the marking should be.

Relaxation for “newbies”

When included in the register, the Ministry of Justice will now have to report on what basis a particular person was recognized as a foreign agent “with indication of specific norms” law.

The bill also introduces a unified procedure for exclusion from the register. In particular, a foreign agent may be expelled from there based on the results of an unscheduled inspection by the Ministry of Justice, if it is established that during the year preceding the day the foreign agent filed an application for exclusion, he did not receive foreign funding or assistance and did not conduct political and other activities described in the bill. Also, they can be excluded from the register if the Ministry of Justice, following an unscheduled inspection, establishes that the foreign agent, no later than three months from the date of entry into the register, refused foreign funding or property and returned them to a foreign source, and also did not receive “scientific technical, organizational and methodological assistance, assistance in other forms.

In the current legislation, such a procedure for leaving the register applies, in particular, to NPOs-foreign agents, as for media-foreign agents, the procedure is spelled out as vaguely as possible.

Another proposed innovation concerns those who will be recognized as a foreign agent after the adoption of the bill. We are talking only about individuals included in the register for the first time. They will be able to apply for removal from the register in free form, but they will have to attach confirmation of “the termination of the circumstances that served as the basis for inclusion in the register.” The draft law gives the Ministry of Justice 30 working days to make this or that decision.

On April 21, Oleg Sviridenko explained that such a simplified exit procedure may apply to cases of erroneous entry into the register: “After all, an error can be in any [body] , and there are errors in the courts.

New restrictions

The authors of the bill propose to introduce new restrictions for foreign agents: they will not be able to organize public events (that is, rallies, processions, pickets); conduct teaching, educational, educational activities in relation to minors; produce information products for minors; receive state financial support— such as grants. They will also not be able to invest in strategic enterprises in Russia, Piskarev said.

The bill introduces a new liability measure for foreign agents. The Ministry of Justice may apply to Roskomnadzor with a request “on restricting access” (that is, blocking) to the site of a foreign agent in case of violation of the requirements of the law, including in the absence of marking. The procedure for interaction between the Ministry of Justice and Roskomnadzor and the procedure for restricting and resuming access to sites will have to be established by the government.

The draft law provides that the Ministry of Justice annually submits to the State Duma and the Federation Council a report on the activities of foreign agents, including information on their participation in political activities, receipt and expenditure of funds.

The head of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, Valery Fadeev, who took part in consultations with the Ministry of Justice regarding the amendment of the legislation on foreign agents, told RBC that among the proposals made by the council and the Union of Journalists of Russia were precisely the rules that exempt foreign agents from the obligation to mark personal posts in social networks, and the ability to easily exit the registry. “As you can see, something has moved forward,” — noted the head of the HRC. Among the proposals was also the creation of a unified register of foreign agents: “This is convenient for both the Ministry of Justice and the foreign agents themselves, since it optimizes legislative norms,” & mdash; Fadeev believes. Another initiative— on the possibility of being included in the register on the basis of a court decision— was not adopted, because there are “legal aspects” that prevent this, the head of the HRC explained.

Responding to RBC's request to comment on the provision of the bill that gives the Ministry of Justice the right to apply to Roskomnadzor with a request to block websites of foreign agents, the head of the HRC said: “We are now discussing subtle, delicate issues. You need to carefully study the bill [before commenting].” According to Fadeev, the HRC will analyze the bill after it is introduced and will express its opinion, including possible proposals for changing it.

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