Open letter to the European Commission concerning the threat of vexatious litigation against journalists…

Dear Ms Lindholm,

 

The undersigned NGOs welcome the Commission’s commitment to address the threat of vexatious litigation against journalists, activists and others.  The weaponization of the law by powerful economic actors has for too long resulted in the suppression of scrutiny and the consequent weakening of the rule of law in the European Union.

 

The incidence of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is notable throughout the European Union. Shocking as the extent of documented suppression of public interest activity may be, we are acutely aware that we are only able to document the tip of the iceberg.  Inequality of arms facilitates coercive activity which results in the removal of recorded scrutiny, and has a chilling effect on public interest activity going forward.

 

The present state of affairs is caused by the existence of criminal defamation law, abuse of civil lawsuits for libel or protection of one’s reputation, and by deficiencies in existing EU private international law, as well as the absence of harmonising measures which would ensure that fundamental rights are upheld in the Member States. We therefore propose a number of short to medium term measures with a view to creating an enabling environment for a vibrant democracy in the European Union.

 

Specifically, in order to (i) protect the rights of citizens, journalists, activists, academics, trade unionists, media organisations and NGOs, as well as (ii) their ability and obligation to supplement and enable enforcement of the law of the European Union, we are of the view that the following matters require urgent attention:

 

  • In the first instance, and as a matter of urgency, the Brussels I Regulation (recast) requires amendment with a view to grounding jurisdiction in the domicile of the defendant in matters relating to defamation. This would remove the facility for pursuers to abuse their ability to choose a court or courts which have little connection to the dispute;

 

  • The omission of defamation from the scope of the Rome II Regulation requires journalists to apply the lowest standard of press freedom available in the laws which might be applied to a potential dispute. We recommend the inclusion of a new rule which would require the application of the law of the place to which a publication is directed;

 

  • Furthermore, a Directive should be adopted to introduce procedural safeguards with a view to limiting the availability of SLAPPs against journalists, activists and citizens. The absence of such measures constitutes a significant threat to the integrity of the internal market, as well as the proper functioning of the Union’s institutional order. Examples of good practice in the European Union and elsewhere should be considered in order to establish minimum standards throughout the Union.
  • Finally, budgetary measures to morally and financially support all SLAPPs victims should be part of the available help.

 

The rationale and legal basis for the adoption of these measures is explained more fully in advice which Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and PEN International commissioned from the Centre for Private International Law at the University of Aberdeen.  We attach this advice for ease of reference.

 

We look forward to your response.

 

Yours truly,

 

Article 19

Articolo 21

Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Danish PEN

Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

English PEN

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

German PEN

Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)

Greenpeace EU Unit

IFEX

Index on Censorship

International Press Institute (IPI)

Legal Human Academy

Norwegian PEN

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

PEN International

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Scottish PEN

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Swedish PEN

Transparency International EU

Related news

Statement

Slovenia: proposed changes to public service media raise serious concern by MFRR partners

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) raises serious concerns about the proposed changes to the funding of public service media in Slovenia and the unacceptably short amount of time that was allocated for public debate and consultation on the matter, which in the meantime has been extended.

READ MORE
Statement

MFRR partners raise concerns over proposed low funding for opposition media outlets in Greece

The undersigned partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), have expressed serious concerns over the recent exclusion and side-lining of critical media outlets during a recent government support package in Greece.

READ MORE
Legal

Malta: five media outlets threatened by lawyers of British-Azeri business owner

Between 1 May and 26 June 2020, a US-based law firm, Lambert Worldwide and a UK-based law firm, Atkins Thomson sent legal letters to Times of Malta, MaltaToday, Malta Independent, Lovin Malta and The Shift News in relation to their reporting and journalistic enquiries.

READ MORE
Statement

Malta: Renewed call for justice 1,000 days after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia

There has been a renewed call for justice 1,000 days after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta

READ MORE
Statement

Statement in support of the mandate of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media

Global organisations sign statement in support of the mandate of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media

READ MORE
Jobs

Project Researcher – Anti-SLAPP

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom are hiring a co-ordinator to steer our new research project on SLAPPs.

READ MORE

Read news by categories: