Will this Kiwi grow up in a free country?
A new bill introduced in New Zealand's parliament threatens to crack down on non-profits. "A new law could strip charities of their tax-free status if they get too involved in politics. The move has led to fears that charities such as Greenpeace and the Sensible Sentencing Trust may be less inclined to speak out," says the One News website. According to the new bill, many tax breaks will be taken away from NGOs, and harsh audits will be authorized to determine the purpose of NGO activities; supporters say that the bill will combat abuses in the non-profit sphere in the country.
The reason Russia Blog pays any attention at all to this Kiwi controversy is the fact that Wellington's legislation seems to be more strict than the law issued by the Russian Duma and signed by Vladimir Putin. There was a huge negative media outburst a year ago in the Western media regarding the Russian NGO bill when it was being discussed. On October 19th the new Russian law came into effect, sparking another wave of outraged articles and reports with scary titles like "Crackdown on Democracy", etc. The question is: Where is the well-deserved outrage in the American and European human rights communities about this new New Zealand bill? Or are human rights activists implying that somehow freedom is less precious for New Zealanders than for Russians?
A recent report issued by the French NGO Reporters Without Borders ranks the genocide-racked Democratic Republic of the Congo and Hamas-ruled Palestine ahead of Russia in freedom of expression. A similar wacky logic seems to be applied to the NGO situation; a very modest Russian law, which requires registration as in any other Western country sparks outrage and drops Russia to nearly last in the world for freedom of expression and association. A similar set of regulations, but much harsher, passed in New Zealand and seemed to go unnoticed.
There might be only two reasons for this situation. Perhaps Western human rights activists care only about Russia, and have nothing in their hearts and minds for the good people of New Zealand, or maybe the Kremlin found a way to change the laws of this distant country to distract people and improve its own image. We hope our readers understand that the latter piece of speculation is a joke.
UPDATE: Welcome, Belmont Club readers!