Expert Talk on Anti SLAPP Solutions

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, European Federation of Journalists, Index on Censorship, Reporters Without Borders, International Press Institute, Committee to Protect Journalists, Scottish PEN, Global Witness, Article 19, Greenpeace International, The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa and PEN International are organising an expert talk on Anti-SLAPP solutions in Brussels, Belgium. The event will take place on November 12, 2019 from 18:30 – 21:00 in the European Parliament (Room ASP 1G2).

SLAPP lawsuits are used by the rich and powerful to silence journalists and critics and in Europe their use has increased.[1] Strategic Litigations Against Public Participation – known as SLAPPs – refer to cases where the plaintiff, often a large corporation or rich politician, initiates legal proceedings against journalists and other critics to stop investigative research, silence criticism or squash political expression. Plaintiffs do not intend to win their cases in the court. They know they have little or no chance of winning. Their aim is to involve journalists and critics in lengthy and costly procedures which ultimately produce a chilling effect. Some SLAPP cases result in financial ruin for the journalists, or cause media outlets to close down.

 

This expert talk will bring together journalists, politicians, lawyers, civil society organisations and other stakeholders with an expected audience of 20-30 people. It aims to create a platform to share and gather expertise on potential anti-SLAPP legislative solutions. In the longer term, the ECPMF in co-operation with other organisations hopes to convince the EU institutions to create mechanisms that would help to limit the abuse of defamation and other laws.

 

The event will be co-hosted by David Casa MEP (Christian Democrats), Stelios Kouloglou MEP (Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left) and Viola von Cramon MEP (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance).

 

 

Background information on SLAPPs

The assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia shocked the world. But what is almost as shocking is the fact that her widower and sons are still fighting costly and damaging SLAPP defamation cases against her in the Maltese courts, two years and one month after her murder. In the United Kingdom, investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr could lose her home and be made bankrupt by the defamation lawsuit filed by Arron Banks (a prominent Leave campaigner in the Brexit referendum), which could see her facing a legal bill of at least one million pounds sterling. For Croatian journalists there is an almost daily battle against vexatious lawsuits. At the end of 2018 there were almost one thousand ongoing defamation cases in the Croatia court system.

 

Last year, in a cross-party initiative MEPs David Casa, Ana Gomes, Monica Macovei, Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Stelios Kouloglou and Benedek Jávor addressed a letter to the European Commission saying that SLAPPs require an EU response.[2] This year, the Centre for Private International Law at Aberdeen University organised a workshop on reform of EU defamation law to explore and address the mechanisms which some powerful actors use to suppress investigative journalism.[3] This expert talk to be held in Brussels is a follow-up activity aiming to provide a forum to gather and share further expertise on potential anti-SLAPP solutions.

AGENDA

18:30 – 18:40  Welcome remarks

ECPMF Representative

18:40 – 19:15 Anti-SLAPP solutions – what can we do to protect journalists?         

Sarah Clarke (Article 19), Moderator

Justin Borg-Barthet, Aberdeen University

Gill Philips, The Guardian/ECPMF

Hrvoje Zovko, Croatian Association of Journalists

19:15 – 19:45  Civil society role and future work on Anti-SLAPP solutions

Interventions by the following:

Padraig Hughes, Media Legal Defence Initiative

Julie Majerczak, Reporters Without Borders

Tom Gibson, Committee to Protect Journalists

Ricardo Gutiérrez, European Federation of Journalists

Charlie Holt, Greenpeace International

Corinne Vella, The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Paola Rosà, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa

19:45 – 20.00  Political support for Anti-SLAPP solutions

Viola von Cramon, Member of European Parliament, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance

David Casa, Member of European Parliament, Christian Democrats

Stelios Kouloglou, Member of European Parliament, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

20:00 – 21:00  Concluding remarks

Refreshments and networking

 

We thank:

Stelios Kouloglou MEP for booking the conference room & for logistical support

Viola von Cramon MEP for covering refreshments costs

David Casa MEP for covering travel and accommodation costs for three speakers

[1] SLAPP: the background of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation https://www.ecpmf.eu/news/legal/slapp-the-background-of-strategic-lawsuits-against-public-participation
[2] Media freedom organisations and MEPs back new anti-SLAPP law, https://ecpmf.eu/news/legal/media-freedom-organisations-and-meps-back-new-anti-slapp-law
[3] The lowest common denominator of press freedoms: a call for reform of EU defamation law, https://www.abdn.ac.uk/law/blog/the-lowest-common-denominator-of-press-freedoms-a-call-for-reform-of-eu-defamation-law/
 
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