Logo of the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe
CASE welcomes the EC’s Anti-SLAPP Initiative as a landmark step in the right direction

ECPMF

27 April 2022

No Comments

CASE welcomes the EC’s Anti-SLAPP Initiative as a landmark step in the right direction

The Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) welcomes the European Commission’s anti-SLAPP initiative unveiled today which includes key remedies and safeguards needed in any effective anti-SLAPP legislation. The initiative, which focuses on cross-border cases, is a crucial first step forward in the fight against abusive lawsuits against public watchdogs in Europe. 

 

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) operate through the litigation process to silence critical speech, shut down accountability, and undermine democratic rights. A CASE report published in March 2022 found a rising cumulative trend of SLAPPs in Europe since 2015.

EU anti-SLAPP proposals: A broad scope of measures  

CASE is deeply encouraged to see that the core safeguards and recommendations we have been advocating for over the past years, and that we discussed in our most recent policy brief, are included in the European Commission’s initiative. We welcome the broad personal scope of the proposed measures, recognising that SLAPPs are aimed at restricting transparent debate on issues of public importance and can impact anybody who wants to hold power to account. We strongly support the Commission’s approach in defining SLAPPs with cross-border implications, which takes into account how attempts to limit public participation resonate and impact public interest across borders, and welcome its recommendation that states ensure that safeguards be applied to all cases beyond the scope of minimum EU standards. We  also note that the proposed anti-SLAPP law includes key safeguards and remedies identified in our research and articulated in our model directive, specifically an early dismissal mechanism (along with reversal of burden of proof, stay of proceedings, accelerated proceedings), a regime of sanctions, and remedial and protective measures (e.g. compensation of costs). 

 

We also welcome the Commission’s recommendation to member states to review those laws which, by unduly limiting or chilling freedom of expression, make judicial systems vulnerable to abuse to silence critics, particularly rules on defamation. CASE has repeatedly underscored the importance of a holistic approach in tackling SLAPPs, including awareness-raising and legal training, support mechanisms and free legal aid, a review of ethical codes regulating lawyers, data collection, and reporting. We are glad to see these components fed into the European Commission’ proposals and remain open to ongoing engagement with the Commission and member states on the implementation process.

 

Speaking about the proposals ahead of the CASE press briefing, ECPMF’s Senior Legal Advisor Flutura Kusari said:

“This is a historical development. SLAPPs destroy careers. Today is the first step in creating serious obstacles to those hoping to use SLAPPs to censor journalists and to hide the truth. We are more motivated than ever to continue our fight against SLAPPs.”

 

What next?

EU and national decision makers must genuinely engage on this initiative. Reaching a swift agreement on an ambitious EU anti-SLAPP law is the objective which must be pursued as a priority. The EU legislators – the European Parliament and the Council, with the help of the Commission – and national legislators must build on the Commission’s legislative proposal and work towards the strongest possible set of rules. Any attempts to weaken the minimum standards proposed by the Commission  must be fought back. 

Read news by categories:

Related news

Statement

Fidesz Media Council moves to silence independent station Tilos Rádió

The partners of the MFRR express serious concern over the decision by the Fidesz-controlled Media Council to block the frequency license renewal of Tilos Rádió.

READ MORE
Statement

Czech Republic: Independence of public broadcasters must be insulated against future attacks

Partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) have published a statement urging the Czech Government to come good on its promises to strengthen the independence of public broadcasters and to seize the opportunity to put press freedom at the centre of its EU presidency programme.

READ MORE
Statement

Open Letter: Safeguarding peace and democracy in Europe through a strong European Media Freedom Act

To mark Europe Day 2022, ECPMF joined an open letter to European Commissioners Vera Jourová, Thierry Breton and Margrethe Vestager to call on the Commission to take an ambitious approach to the European Media Freedom Act.

READ MORE
Statement

Albania: Private data breaches and intimidation of journalists must be investigated

The MFRR, together with Safe Journalists Network and RSF, have written to Mr. Besnik Dervishi, Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection of Albania, calling for a thorough investigation into a recent private data breach and intimidation of journalists in Albania.

READ MORE
Statement

Estonia: Criminal fines for journalists over public interest reporting send dangerous signal

The MFRR partners are concerned about the imposition of fines on two journalists and a news outlet in Estonia after they published information about pre-trial criminal proceedings without seeking permission or informing the prosecutor’s office.

READ MORE
Statement

CASE welcomes the EC’s Anti-SLAPP Initiative as a landmark step in the right direction

The Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) welcomes the European Commission’s anti-SLAPP initiative unveiled today which includes key remedies and safeguards needed in any effective anti-SLAPP legislation.

READ MORE