Photo: Unsplash, eskay lim + composition
Nineteen organisations condemn the lawsuits brought against Catherine Belton and HarperCollins, deeming them “SLAPPs”

Press-ECPMF

24 November 2021

No Comments

24 November 2021

 

The undersigned organisations express their serious concern at the legal proceedings that are being brought against journalist and author Catherine Belton and her publisher HarperCollins.

The two defamation lawsuits are being brought by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich and the Russian state energy company Rosneft in relation to Belton’s book, Putin’s People: How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the West, which was published in April 2020.

Abramovich’s complaint relates to 26 extracts in the book, including the suggestion that his purchase of Chelsea Football Club in 2003 was directed by Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Rosneft’s complaint relates to claims that they participated in the expropriation of Yukos Oil Company, which had been privately owned by businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Both claims were filed in March 2021.

“We believe that the lawsuits against Belton and HarperCollins amount to strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs),” the organisations said, referring to a form of legal harassment used by wealthy and powerful entities to silence journalists and other public watchdogs. 

“SLAPPs are used to drain their targets of as much time, money, and energy as possible in order to bully them into silence. The individual may be sued personally and several lawsuits may be brought at the same time, including in different jurisdictions,” the organisations said. “These are hallmarks of SLAPPs, and they’re consistent with what Belton and HarperCollins have faced.”

Five separate claims were initially filed against Belton and HarperCollins, but three have since been resolved without the need for costs or damages being awarded to the claimants. In June 2021, Abramovich filed an additional lawsuit against HarperCollins in Australia in relation to Belton’s book.

“We, once again, urge the UK government to consider measures, including legislative reforms, that would protect public watchdogs from being subject to burdensome, lengthy, and financially draining legal actions, which can stifle public debate,” the organisations concluded. “Our democracy relies on their ability to hold power to account.”

 

SIGNED:

ARTICLE 19

Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

AEJ Polish Section

Blueprint for Free Speech

Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS)

Citizen Network Watchdog Poland

Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice
English PEN 

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Index on Censorship

IFEX

Justice for Journalists Foundation

National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

PEN International

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Society of Journalists, Warsaw

Spotlight on Corruption

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Read news by categories:

Related news

Feature

MFRR to hold press freedom mission to Greece

READ MORE
Statement

Poland: Journalist must not be jailed for refusing to disclose source

READ MORE
Statement

Slovenia: Concerns over controversial changes to RTV programming

READ MORE
Female Journalists

Violence in the field, discrimination at the workplace: Being a woman or LGBTI+ journalist in Turkey

READ MORE
Statement

Nineteen organisations condemn the lawsuits brought against Catherine Belton and HarperCollins, deeming them “SLAPPs”

READ MORE
Statement

Poland: Journalists must be allowed access to Belarus border

READ MORE
Tags :