Governments in certain countries have directly and indirectly influenced the activism of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This study extends prior studies on NGO accountability by showing the potency of accounting in enabling governments to use the pretext of visibility to indirectly achieve an outcome – curbing activism – similar to that resulting from the direct prohibition of foreign funding. It examines how an accounting regulation was utilised to discipline human rights organisations (HROs) and their members of staff by using the case of the ‘foreign agents’ law in Russia. This accounting regulation abruptly changed accounting for foreign funding to stigmatise HROs and influence their political activism. More specifically, the ‘foreign agents’ law: created a new group of governable objects by labelling them as ‘NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent’ to distinguish them from other types of NGOs; encumbered NGOs with costly reporting requirements; and empowered government authorities to discipline ‘deviant NGOs’ and their employees. The threat of inspections, penalties, damaged reputations and spoiled identities through public shaming campaigns and negative publicity not only resulted in a substantial reduction in human rights activism but also led to the demise of Russian HROs and human rights defenders.
- Accounting regulation
- Disciplinary power
- Foreign funding restrictions
- Human rights organisations
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Information Systems and Management