Since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law Saturday giving prosecutors the power to declare foreign and international organizations "undesirable" and shut them down, reaction against the legislation has been strong.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned it as part of an "ongoing draconian crackdown which is squeezing the life out of civil society." The law — part of a Kremlin campaign to stifle dissent that intensified after Putin began his third term in 2012 — makes it possible to shutter groups judged as a threat to Russian stability or security.
U.S. Department of State deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said the U.S. is "troubled" by the new law — particularly because it "criminalizes any 'cooperation' with groups" deemed undesirable.
"We are concerned this new power will further restricts the work of civil society in Russia and is a further example of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world," Harf said in a statement.
More from Harf:
We continue to be concerned about increasing restrictions on independent media, civil society, members of minority groups, and the political opposition. Russians, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution.
Indeed, critics of the new law told the Moscow Times Sunday that Russia's media "will be forced to up its self-censorship" since the legislation "makes media outlets liable for spreading information" about groups deemed undesirable.
Anton Ishchenko, one author of the new law, told The Moscow Times that the legislation bars media outlets from publishing slogans or providing links to material published by so-called undesirable organizations.
"My wish is that no organization makes it onto the list," Ishchenko told the Times. "But if there indeed are foreign organizations that threaten Russia's security, then they must be stopped."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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