The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] on Friday approved [session minutes, in Russian] a bill [materials; in Russian] that enforces tougher restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive international funding as well as re-criminalizes the offenses of libel and slander. The bill requires any NGOs that receive any type of foreign funding and engage in political activity to register and identify themselves as a foreign agent [AP report]. In addition, the parliament voted to re-criminalize libel and slander, two actions that six months ago were made administrative offenses. The Duma passed the bill despite foreign disapproval, and the bill will likely add to the strain of Russia's relations with Western countries. On Thursday, three UN experts urged the State Duma [JURIST report] not to adopt the bill. The bill is expected to pass the upper house and be signed by the president.
Russia has been criticized recently for controversial legislation. Last Wednesday, the Duma approved a bill [JURIST report] giving the Russian government complete ability to block certain Internet websites. The Russian version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia [website] on Tuesday shut down its site [JURIST report] in a one-day protest of the legislation. In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law [JURIST report] a controversial bill which greatly increases penalties for protestors who violate demonstration regulations.