The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and the Vlaamse Vereniging van Journalisten (Flemish Association of Journalists, VVJ) are highly concerned about the lawsuit filed by Dana Holdings against EU Observer and journalist Andrew Rettman.
The litigation, filed before the tribunal of first instance in Brussels, pertains to an article published in EU Observer on 14 October 2020 titled “Lukaskenko-linked firms active in EU member Cyprus”. According to Dana Holdings, a real estate company with presumed connections to the family of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the article contains several libellous statements that, it is claimed, falsely create the impression that the firm benefited from financial perks due to its links with Lilya Lukashenko, the daughter-in-law of Belarus’ autocratic leader. Dana Holdings is demanding damages of 2.500 euros for every day the story is kept online, plus legal costs.
Having analysed the impugned article, in our view, it is beyond question that it constitutes reporting that is evidently in the public interest, researched, written and published in line with high deontological standards. On the other hand, the lawsuit appears designed not to establish a legitimate claim in the court of law but rather to bully the outlet and its journalist into silence and to suppress critical, independent journalism. This impression is reinforced further by the fact that four related letters were delivered to Rettman’s home address, adding an additional element of intimidation, considering how the Lukashenko regime has previously targeted its opponents with violence in other EU Member States and the United Kingdom.
In light of the above considerations, we urge Dana Holdings to withdraw its abusive claim.