IDFI’s Russian Partner Organization FIF was declared as a foreign agent

News | Good Governance | Publications | Article 29 January 2014

Prosecutor’s office evaluated the activities of IDFI’s Russian Partner - Freedom of Information Foundation (St. Petersburg) as political activity and requested the elimination of violations of the law of non-profit organizations. Statement of the foundation regarding this issue was published on the web-site of organization on January 28 (www.svabodainfo.org).

On January 27, 2014 Freedom of Information Foundation received the prosecutor’s supervisory act from the Central Prosecutors’ Office of St. Petersburg. Inspection of NGO’s work was carried out on the basis of one of the citizens who addressed the prosecutor’s office with the request. After the assessment was carried out, due to the fact that the foundation is financially supported by the ‘foreign money’, prosecutor’s office assumed that this organization is the ‘tool of forming the public opinion’, thus it should be declared as agent. The eight-page long document depicts those aspects that prosecutor’s office believes to be signs of organization’s political activities.

The prosecutor’s supervisory act puts strong emphases on the fact that the organization is utilizing internet resources for political reasons. The charges of prosecutor’s office is backed up by the articles and researches published on the web-page of the organization.

The major reason that backed up the accusation of the institution in political activities was the article of the Chairman of the board of the foundation, Ivan Pavlov - "Meeting of the Russian Human Rights Activists with Barack Obama". Based on this article, the prosecutor’s office claims that the president of the USA was informed about the socio-political situation in Russia.

A very interested assessment was given to the foundation’s analytical article on changes in the law of protecting personal data. According to the prosecutor's office, by making an assessment of the federal legislation and comparing it to the international acts, the foundation expresses disagreement with the current legislation and negatively estimates the work of legislative bodies.  

The foundation had organized an event within the frames of which the State Duma of the Russian Federation and "the anti-piracy law" were granted with the right of know anti-awards. Prosecutor’s office assessed this event as activity responsible for forming the opinion of the society about an inefficiency of implementation of entrusted powers by government bodies.

Participation of the program director of the foundation, Tatyana Tolsteneva in the London summit of Open Government Partnership was qualified as political activity.  The prosecutor’s report states that Tolsteneva was not authorized to acquaint participants of the summit with the situation in the sphere of transparency/openness in Russia. Another reason for accusing the foundation in political activities was publicizing the research on the results of monitoring the web-pages of the public institutions.

In 2012 President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed the law about non-commercial organizations. According to this law, non-profit organizations that are financially supported by foreign countries, are engaged in politics have special status of foreign agents. State carries out the investigation of the work of NGOs and in case any violations of the above mentioned law is detected, they are imposed to special responsibility by law. It was the second inspection of FIF carried out by the prosecutor’s office.

On the basis of the inspection, the foundation was requested to address to the Ministry of Justice and register as the organization, activities of which are equivalent to the activities of the foreign agent.

Foundation has already stated the fact of qualifying their work as political activity has neither legal nor logical bases.

‘We believe that the political activity means struggle for gaining political power. We have always adhered to the principle of distancing from any political force and process. Activities of the Foundation of Freedom of Information are not directed towards changing the policy of openness declared by the public authorities. Our direction is the effective realization of this policy.’

The organization is planning to appeal to the court.

IDFI supports Freedom of Information Foundation. We hope that the court will be unbiased and impartial in regards of this case.

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