Signatures for Statement _ Council of Europe _ SLAPP

More than 100 calls for Council of Europe Recommendation to combat SLAPPs

Statement on  the need for a Council of Europe Recommendation on combatting SLAPPs

The undersigned groups, representing a range of different public watchdogs (including journalists, activists, NGOs, lawyers, trade unions, workers’ representatives, scholars and whistleblowers), call on the Council of Europe (CoE) to act on the growing threat of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).

 

SLAPPs are abusive lawsuits filed by powerful individuals and companies as a means of silencing critical expression (e.g. journalism, peaceful protest or whistleblowing). They typically use long and costly legal procedures, or the threat thereof, to intimidate and harass critics into silence.

 

A growing body of evidence – including from ECPMF, Greenpeace EU, and Index on Censorship – shows a rise in the use of SLAPPs across the continent, and highlights the devastating impact such abusive tactics can have on public watchdogs.

 

The EU has recognised the problem and is exploring steps to address it. At present, however, no dedicated European human rights standards exist to guide the EU in enacting anti-SLAPP measures. SLAPPs are also a major problem in many European states that are not EU members.

 

The CoE has already spoken out against SLAPPs in the context of issues such as defamation. However, its statements consist of brief references in existing policy documents that do not add up to a coherent set of guidelines on how national law and practice should prevent SLAPPs.

 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has dealt with the issue indirectly on a number of occasions. These cases point to a requirement under the European Convention on Human Rights for governments to deter SLAPPs and support those targeted, as part of States’ duty to enable free speech and create a favourable environment for participation in public debate by all.

 

Despite the growth in SLAPPs, no specific anti-SLAPP laws exist in Europe, and safeguards against procedural abuse are often limited. It falls to the CoE to address this gap and guide its members to ensure the full and consistent application of the principles advanced by the ECtHR.

 

Urgent action is needed. Given the scale and nature of the problem, we are asking the CoE to act at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

In particular, a self-standing recommendation should be issued with clear guidance on measures needed to discourage SLAPPs and dismiss them at an early stage, to sanction those who use SLAPPs or threaten to do so, and to provide financial and legal support to those targeted by SLAPPs. It should also give guidance on how to prevent the use of forum shopping, whereby cases are brought in jurisdictions that maximise the cost and inconvenience for the defendant.

 

This recommendation would be of huge importance in positively influencing laws and policies across CoE member states, as well as shaping EU anti-SLAPP legislation. The case for a CoE recommendation is set out in more detail in the attached memorandum.

Signed by:

1. AJK – The Association of Journalists of Kosovo

2. Alternatif Bilişim, Turkey (Alternative Informatics Association)

3. Amis de la Terre France / Friends of the Earth France

4. Apache

5. ARA – Arbeitsgemeinschaft Regenwald und Artenschutz, Germany

6. Arena for Journalism in Europe

7. ARTICLE 19

8. Articolo 21 + Articolo 21 Campania

9. Association Justice and Environment, z.s.

10. Association Media-Guard, Republic of Moldova

11. Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio & Communication

12. BankTrack

13. Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

14. Blueprint for Free Speech

15. Bruno Manser Fonds, Basel, Switzerland

16. Centre for Law and Democracy

17. Civil Liberties Union for Europe

18. Civil Society Europe

19. ClientEarth

20. COMMIT – Community Medien Institut für Weiterbildung, Forschung und Beratung

21. Committee to Protect Journalists

22. Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE)

23. Czech center for investigative journalism

24. Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

25. Denkhausbremen e.V., Germany

26. Digital Rights Ireland

27. English PEN

28. Environmental Investigation Agency, UK

29. Environmental Paper Network

30. European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights

31. European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

32. European Environmental Bureau

33. European Federation of Journalists

34. European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

35. Festival “Imbavagliati”

36. FNSI, Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana

37. Forum Ökologie & Papier, Germany

38. Forum trentino per la pace e i diritti umani

39. Foundation Libera Informazione

40. Free Press Unlimited

41. Friends of the Earth Europe

42. Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie

43. Fundacja Reporterów (Poland)

44. Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)

45. GRAIN

46. Greenpeace International

47. Guardian News and Media Limited (as publishers of the Guardian, the Observer and

theguardian.com)

48. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Warsaw, Poland

49. Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights

50. Homo Digitalis

51. Human Rights Centre, Ghent University

52. Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)

53. IFEX

54. ILGA-Europe (European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans &

Intersex Association)

55. In Difesa Di

56. Index on Censorship

57. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)

58. International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for

the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

59. International Media Support (IMS)

60. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)

61. International Press Institute

62. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

63. Investigative Journalists NGO, Armenia

64. Iuridicum Remedium, z.s.

65. Journalismfund.eu

66. Justice for Journalists Foundation

67. Kif Kif vzw

68. KRIK

69. Lawyers for Lawyers

70. Legal Human Academy

71. Liga voor mensenrechten

72. Ligue des droits humains

73. Mighty Earth

74. Netherlands Helsinki Committee

75. Network for Affirmation of NGO Sector (MANS), Montenegro

76. Network of Concerned Historians

77. Neuer Weg, Romania

78. NGO Shipbreaking Platform

79. OBC Transeuropa

80. Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)

81. Ossigeno per l’Informazione (Ossigeno.info)

82. PEN International

83. Progress Lawyers Network

84. Protection International

85. Radio B138, Community Radio Station Austria

86. Radio Helsinki 92.6 – Freies Radio Graz

87. Rainforest Action Network

88. Rainforest Rescue (Rettet den Regenwald e.V.), Germany

89. ReAct – Réseau pour l’Action Transnationale, France

90. Reporters Without Borders

91. RISE Moldova

92. Rory Peck Trust

93. Salva la Selva, Spain

94. SAR Europe

95. Sherpa

96. Society for Threatened Peoples

97. Spotlight on Corruption

98. Studio Monitor

99. Towarzystwo Dziennikarskie (Society of Journalists) Warsaw

100. Umweltinstitut München

101. Verband Freier Rundfunk Österreich (Association of Austrian Community Broadcasters)

102. Whistleblowing International Network (WIN)

103. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

104. Xnet Spain

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