Public Verdict Foundation faces prosecution for refusing to label itself a 'foreign agent'

posted 26 Nov 2015, 05:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Nov 2015, 03:09 ]
23 November 2015

Source: (info)
Public Verdict Foundation has received a letter from the department of Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media) for the Central Federal District, in which the department notifies the human rights activists that it ‘has ascertained’ that the Public Verdict Foundation has ‘distributed’ publications without labelling itself as a ‘foreign agent’, which, under Article 19.34 (Section 2) of the RF Administrative Code, it is obliged to do. The organization faces the threat of a fine of up to half a million roubles.

Four news items from Public Verdict’s official site are cited as evidence of the Foundation’s ‘illegal’ activity. One item (‘The Supreme Court of the Kabardno-Balkaria republic upholds the sentencing of a police officer for beating juveniles’) reports on a sentence relating to a police officer from Foundation’s case load. Another relates to the award of a prestigious international award to the director of the Public Verdict Foundation, Natalya Taubina, who became a laureate of the 32nd annual Robert F Kennedy award for the defence of human rights. The award ceremony was on 19th November. The news item ‘Moscow city court did not permit Public Verdict to exercise its right of defence’ reports on the continuing and drawn out battle by the Foundation as it contests the status of ‘foreign agent’. Similarly, in Roskomnadzor’s view, another item on the Foundation’s website (‘The Perm resident, whose husband died from police torture known as “the swallow”, is claiming 3.5 million roubles compensation from the state’) infringes the law on foreign agents.

It is interesting that the letter from Roskomnadzor was posted to Public Verdict on 12 November, while the Foundation’s leadership, according to Roskomnadzor, were to have been present in the agency’s office for the drawing up of an official notification on 13th November. The postal service delivered the letter only on 17th. Now the activists expect to receive both the official notification and a court summons. The Ministry of Justice is also, at the present time, carrying out its planned inspection of the organization.

Once it has received official notification of the alleged infringements of the Administrative Code, Public Verdict intends to challenge Roskomnadzor’s claims in court.

The law on ‘foreign agents’ entered into force on 20 November 2012. As of 23 November 2015, 104 organizations were on the ‘foreign agent’ register, five of their own volition, and 99 against their will by the Ministry of Justice. Starting in the summer of 2015 organizations began to be fined for not including the label ‘foreign agent’ on their published materials. 300,000 roubles, judging by practice, has been the minimum ‘price’ charged for not using the label. A fine of that amount is imposed for each publication that appears without making reference to the organization’s status as a ‘foreign agent’. As of 9 November 2015 11 organizations have been taken off the ‘foreign agents’ register because they have gone into liquidation.

For more information about the campaign against NGOs and Public Verdict Foundation, click HERE.

Translated by Mary McAuley