How to “neutralize” NGOs

Yesterday, Russian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volinkin announced that some of the journalists and public figures had given “free interpretation” to his words, but he has not made a call for repressive actions against Armenian NGOs. I am also against setting up people, and misinterpreting their words. Therefore, let’s recall what the Ambassador had actually said to “Noyev Kovcheg” newspaper. “I believe that Russia should remind of its own presence in Armenian informational sphere. There’s no doubt about it. However, additional methods should also be used in order to neutralize the NGOs, which are striving to drive a wedge between the Russian-Armenian relations. Russia, in fact, has adopted a law that clearly regulates the NGO activity.”

And now let’s see which law on NGOs adopted by Russia Mr. Volinkin is referring and actually is advising us to follow that pattern. The matter, I think, is about the legislative amendments entered into force in 2012, November 21, according to which the NGOs “involved in politics” and funded from abroad should be registered as “foreign agents” with corresponding responsibility and “state care.”

According to official justifications, the goal is that the NGOs allegedly being sponsored from “unfriendly” sources do not conduct activities against the state. And as far as the authorities in our country are identified with the state, the goal is to restrict the manifestations of protest and criticism against the authorities.

Let’s put aside the question of whether the accredited Ambassador of this country has the right to advise this country to adopt this-or-that law. For justice, let’s note that Mr. Volinkin’s partner, John Heffern, was also, I think, showing too much interest in the law on “funded” pensions.

In this case, the following is more important. Do we, the citizens of Armenia, want a law restricting the rights of NGOs function in our country by Russia’s pattern? Let me promptly say that 90% of our citizens do not care about this issue. Most of them just want to live the good life. Five percent, which can be called “Customs active,” stands for it. They first of all welcome any restriction of freedom, secondly, they see the “Western conspiracy” everywhere. Five percent is against it, including me, because, as I said, I think that such laws actually protect the government, but not the state.

Let me add that the NGOs, which the Ambassador Volinkin does not like, are not the light of my eyes. They really are often falling into extremes, sometimes ignoring the facts, are trying to “find dirt” everywhere. But it does not hurt our country. While restricting their activities is harmful.



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