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SLAPPs - Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation

Civil society has engaged a wide range of experts including academics, lawyers, practitioners, SLAPP targets and policy and advocacy specialists, to look into the value added, the feasibility and the key components of possible EU anti-SLAPP legislation.
This paper is the result of this collaborative work: a model EU anti-SLAPP law proposing a set of rules which, if in place, would make sure that in each EU country SLAPPs are dismissed at an early stage of proceedings, SLAPP litigants pay for abusing the law and the courts, and SLAPP targets are given means and assistance to defend themselves. As democracy and the rule of law come increasingly under pressure in a number of EU countries, this paper supports the call on EU policymakers by the undersigned organisations to urgently put forward an EU anti-SLAPP Directive to protect public watchdogs that help hold the powerful to account and keep the democratic debate alive.

Examples of SLAPPs

Germany

Open letters & Joint statements

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners, journalist bodies, free expression and journalist support organisations are concerned about the legal threats made against EUobserver in Luxembourg and Belgium and call to stop the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) actions across Europe. Left unreformed, such legal threats will be sufficient to silence media workers and outlets. We stand in solidarity with EUobserver and will continue to monitor developments around the case.
The EU must end gag lawsuits used to silence individuals and organisations that hold those in positions of power to account. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) are lawsuits brought forward by powerful actors (e.g. companies, public officials in their private capacity, high profile persons) to harass and silence those speaking out in the public interest. Typical victims are those with a watchdog role, for instance: journalists, activists, informal associations, academics, trade unions, media organisations and civil society organisations.
The EU can and must end SLAPPs by adopting the following complementary measures to protect all those affected by SLAPPs:
  • An anti-SLAPP directive
  • The reform of Brussels I and Rome II Regulations
  • Support all victims of SLAPPs

Ukraine

On February 16, the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) asked President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to veto the law on whistleblowers passed on February 4.
WIN prepared a letter to the Office of the President, and Transparency International Ukraine joined the list of signatories.
In its address, WIN Board of Trustees reminds the leadership of Ukraine of the provisions of the Anti-Corruption Strategy, which, in particular, include a clause on the proper protection of whistleblowers. Like most civil society organizations in Ukraine, WIN believes that the proposed bill undermines the effective protection of whistleblowers.
WIN reminds that Ukraine has concluded an Association Agreement with the European Union and included the Euro-Atlantic integration as a value in its Constitution However, the proposed legal framework does not comply with the EU Directive on the protection of persons reporting breaches of Union law or basic tenets of international best practices principles for whistleblowing protection.
The specific concerns of the Network are as follows:
  • Prohibitive conditions for protected disclosure;
  • Removal of internal reporting channels;
  • Requirement to reveal confidential sources.

Slovenia

As outlined in a media freedom alert issued by the Council of Europe, since August journalists Primož Cirman, Vesna Vukovic and Tomaž Modic have each had 13 different criminal lawsuits lodged against them by Rok Snežić, a tax expert and unofficial financial advisor to Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, bringing the total so far to 39.
The lawsuits target the journalists’ joint reporting over the last three years on Snežić’s business dealings and alleged involvement in an illegal loan to Janša’s ruling SDS party. The reporting was published in siol.net and then necenzurirano.si, the portal the three journalists founded in January 2020.
We believe it is abundantly clear that the number and nature of these spurious defamation lawsuits against Necenzurirano are not aimed at achieving justice, but instead at silencing the outlet by forcing its journalists to fight time-consuming and costly legal battles, draining them financially and discouraging them from further reporting.
As such, this represents one of the most brazen uses anywhere in the European Union in recent years of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), a form of abusive litigation used by powerful actors to harass media outlets working in the public interest.

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