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Russia's Duma OKs NGO 'foreign agent' bill

July 13, 2012 at 10:26 AM

MOSCOW, July 13 (UPI) -- Non-government organizations engaged in political activity with foreign funding would be classified as foreign agents under a bill passed by Russia's lawmakers.

The bill's passage Friday on a 374-3 vote in the Duma (lower chamber) came amid criticism from Russian human rights groups that said it is a government attempt to suppress the opposition, RIA Novosti reported.

Under the legislation, NGOs would have to publish a report on their activities and conduct an annual financial audit. Penalties for not complying include a four-year jail term and-or up to $9,200 in fines.

Organizations affected by the legislation would be added to foreign-agent lists and required to include a "foreign agent" label on all materials they publish. Also, the NGO must tell the Justice Ministry about foreign funding greater than $7,000 it may receive.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that would criminalize defamation, RIA Novosti said.

Opposition activists and journalists said that measure is another attempt to silence government critics.

The bill includes fines of up to $170,000 for misinformation damaging a person's reputation.

Both bills must be approved by the Federation Council, Russia's legislative upper chamber, and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

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