6 June 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
"We do not see any legal or logical basis for describing our work as "political activity", and none therefore for registering as a "foreign agent". We will defend our position in court," the Foundation for Freedom of Information said.
In their appeal the Foundation points out that the prosecutors’ conclusions on the political nature of the organisation's activities are groundless. The appeal also argues that the Prosecutor's Notice is based on an incorrect interpretation of the law and the prosecutors have therefore exceeded their powers by making such demands. The Foundation also draws attention to the fact that, in accordance with the organisation's founding documents, their activities are not aimed at changing government policy, whereas one of the criteria for an organisation to be labelled a "foreign agent" is when their activities aim to change government policy.
The hearing will be held on 17 June at 2 pm in Moscow district court in St. Petersburg.
As previously reported, on 27 January the Foundation for Freedom of Information received a Notice from the Prosecutor’s Office of the Central District of St. Petersburg requiring the Foundaiton to eliminate alleged violations of the law on non-profit organizations.
Subsequently, a further inspection of the organisation's work was carried out on the basis of a complaint received from a concerned citizen. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the Foundation, which receives foreign funding, is engaged in activities "comprising of elements of political activity" and which "are a means to form public opinion". The prosecutors emphasised that the Foundation actively used its internet resources to carry out its political activities.
From the prosecutors’ point of view, the following aspects of the Foundation's work are of a political nature:
- A publication posted in Livejournal by the chair of the Foundation's board, Ivan Pavlov, entitled "A Meeting of Russian Human Rights Defenders with Barack Obama". According to the prosecutors’ Notice, at the meeting the US President was presented with information about the current political and social situation in Russia;
- A publication on the Foundation's website analysing the amendments to the legalisation on personal data. According to the prosecutors, by assessing federal legalisation and comparing it with international law, the Foundation is expressing its disagreement with the current legalisation and negatively assessing the work of the Russian legislative bodies;
- The organisation of a vote on the nomination of the "Disorganisation of the Year" and the "Failure of the Year" for the "Awards and Anti-Awards of the Right to Know", in which the winners were named the State Duma and the Anti-Piracy Law respectively. The prosecutors classified this as "activities aiming to form public opinion about the ineffectiveness of government bodies and of the policies carried out by the current authorities";
- The participation of the Foundation's Programme Director, Tatyana Tolsteneva, in the London summit of the "Open Government Partnership". The prosecutors claim that Tatyana, not being an official, had no right to inform participants in the summit about the situation regarding transparency in Russia;
- The publication on the Foundation’s website of the results of monitoring of official websites. The prosecutors claim that this information can influence public opinion, and thus its publication is a political activity.
On the basis of the inspection, the prosecutors ordered the Foundation to address the Ministry of Justice with an application to be included in the register of organisations acting as “foreign agents”.
Translated by Chloe Cranston
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