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UK: New policy paper on countering legal intimidation and SLAPPs

Press-ECPMF

16 July 2021

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16 July 2021

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) supports a new policy paper by the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition, titled “Countering Legal Intimidation and SLAPPs”.

 

It is comprised of:

–  Background to the issue of legal intimidation and SLAPPs in the UK;

–  Principles for mitigating the threat of legal intimidation;

–  Approaches to countering legal intimidation and SLAPPs in the UK.

SLAPPs are abusive lawsuits pursued with the purpose of shutting down acts of public participation. These legal actions are directed against individuals and organisations – including journalists, media outlets, whistleblowers, activists, academics and NGOs – that speak out on matters of public interest. SLAPPs have been gaining wider recognition as an issue in several jurisdictions. However, there is also a significant concern regarding the ‘hidden problem’ of UK law firms sending threatening legal communication prior to any official filings, which can have a similar effect to SLAPPs. These legal threats are particularly effective when emanating from the UK, which is seen as a more plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction and where mounting a defence is a particularly costly and lengthy process.

 

The aim of this policy paper is threefold:

1. To provide an overview of the problem in the UK context;

2. To identify the key principles for mitigating the threat of legal intimidation and SLAPPs; and

3. To form a starting point for legislative and regulatory initiatives to address this issue in the UK.

The policy paper is supported by:

ARTICLE 19

Blueprint for Free Speech

Campaign for Freedom of  Information in Scotland 

Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice (affiliate)

The Daphne Foundation

English PEN

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Foreign Policy Centre

Good Law Project

Guardian News and Media Ltd

Index on Censorship

Justice for Journalists Foundation

National Union of Journalists

PEN International 

Protect

Publish What You Pay UK (PWYPUK)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID)

Rory Peck Trust

Spotlight on Corruption 

Transparency International – UK

Whistleblowing International Network (WIN)

Find the full policy paper as well as an explanatory note to approaches to Countering Legal Intimidation and SLAPPs in the UK below.

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