US Embassy in Sarajevo strongly reacted to the statement of Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia's Republika Srpska entity, who compared draft law on foreign agents recently adopted by the RS entity parliament with a law in the US, calling it a “more benign version” of it. The embassy called the claim “untrue,” adding that the law adopted in the RS is “patterned on repressive Russian legislation.”
In a statement issued a day after the so-called law on foreign agents was adopted by the RS National Assembly, the embassy said that the US law that Dodik refers to, known as the United States Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938, brings transparency to the work of lobbyists – individuals or organizations working on behalf of a foreign principal to influence government decision-making.
“FARA requires such individuals and organizations to register with the Department of Justice and declare their relationship, activities, and financial compensation. These registrations are published, allowing the public to be informed about the activities of foreign agent lobbyists in the United States. FARA does not ban or restrict the foreign agents’ activities, it places no limits on freedom of speech or association, and it does not apply to independent media or to the vast majority of civil society organizations,” the embassy said, stressing that this longstanding US legislation provides transparency in the narrow realm of government lobbying; it does not regulate all of civil society.
This is not the case with the law adopted in the RS National Assembly, according to the embassy.
“In contrast, the ‘Law on the Special Register and Transparency of Work of Non-Profit Organizations’ approved by the RSNA in its first reading on September 29 is patterned on repressive Russian legislation that the Kremlin has used to suppress dissent, eviscerate civil society, and eradicate free media,” the statement stressed.
The embassy assessed the RSNA legislation’s definitions and wording as “vague” and “ambiguous,” which will give RS authorities the leeway to label any non-profit organizations receiving funding from sources outside BiH as “foreign agents” and prohibit them from certain activities.
“This anti-democratic legislation is clearly intended to limit the space for civil society to function and suppress criticism of Dodik’s ruling coalition, eroding the rights of RS residents and moving the RS another step closer to authoritarianism,” the embassy underlined.