Kyrgyzstan: Don’t Copy Russia's Foreign Agents Law
Freedom House deplores the recent proposal in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament to implement repressive legislation against the right to freedom of association modeled on Russia’s “foreign agents” law.
Two Members of Parliament in the Kyrgyz Republic introduced a “foreign agents” law, similar to the one in Russia which has seriously disrupted the work of independent human rights groups. The proposed law would enable the government to label certain Kyrgyzstani nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as “foreign agents” if they receive financial support from abroad and engage in undefined “political activities.” It is of great concern that members of the Kyrgyz Republic’s parliament are taking their cues from Russia, where the “foreign agents” law has been interpreted expansively and led to audits and the prosecution of hundreds of NGOs under specious allegations of operating as “foreign agents.”
In the proposed law, “political activities” are not clearly defined and only narrow spheres of activities are excluded from its definition, giving the government wide latitude in interpreting and enforcing the law and opening up the possibility of arbitrary implementation. The law would authorize heavy-handed financial and other disclosure requirements on NGOs and a new registration system that could disrupt these organizations’ operations, as well as result in the suspension of their activities. Failure to comply with the law could result in fines and prison sentences of up to four years. The term “foreign agent” is used to brand NGOs as nefarious and unpatriotic organizations.
As in Russia, the proposed law is an ill-conceived effort to limit the activities of groups who comment on government policies. Parliament must reject this proposed law as it is anti-democratic and clearly aimed at restricting fundamental freedoms.
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