EP confirms anti-SLAPP Directive by a large majority of votes

NEWS 27.02.202416:17 0 komentara

On Tuesday, the European Parliament confirmed the rules to protect journalists and activists from SLAPP lawsuits, which are used by those in power to silence critical voices and exhaust them financially. Pročitaj više

Strategic lawsuits against the public (SLAPP lawsuits) are unfounded and malicious lawsuits brought by those in power against journalists, media, activists, researchers and artists. Those in power do not seek justice with such lawsuits, but rather want to disrupt, intimidate and silence the critical voice in the public sphere.

As a rule, court proceedings drag on for years, the defendants are financially and psychologically exhausted, and journalists and the media are prevented from investing resources, energy and time in reporting on matters of public interest.

SLAPP lawsuits “contrary to our European values”

To protect critical voices from censorship and self-censorship and from SLAPP lawsuits, the Anti-SLAPP Directive was passed.

With 546 votes in favour, 47 against and 31 abstentions, the European Parliament confirmed the political agreement between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU on the new directive, which was reached at the end of November last year.

The rapporteur, German Social Democrat Tiemo Woelken, said that SLAPP lawsuits “contradict our European values”, but that this directive would put an end to them.

“This directive will help fight SLAPPs, prevent the abuse of courts to intimidate and prevent journalists and activists from publishing information and enforce a form of self-censorship,” he added.

Defendants can ask the court to dismiss the case at an early stage. In this case, the plaintiffs will have to prove that the claim is well-founded. The courts will be able to impose deterrent penalties on those who file SLAPP suits, which are mostly politicians, other public officials, corporations and others. The courts will be able to impose fines on plaintiffs and require them to pay the costs of the case, including legal representation of the defendant and damages.

SLAPP victims must be guaranteed access to all information on legal and financial support and psychological help.

Increase in SLAPP lawsuits in the European Union

The new rules will also apply to actions in cases with cross-border implications, i.e. where the claimant, defendant and court are not located in the same country or where the act of public participation, e.g. an article, video or artwork, is relevant to several member countries.

In addition, the Directive ensures that judgments from third countries are not recognised in SLAPP actions against individuals and companies established or doing business in their territory.

The Directive will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. EU member countries must transpose the directive into national law within two years.

In a resolution in 2021, the European Parliament warned of an increase in SLAPP lawsuits in the European Union and a year later the European Commission presented a proposal to protect journalists, media houses and activists from legal harassment.

This issue became topical again after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Maltese investigative journalist was the victim of more than 40 court cases before she was murdered in October 2017.

Malta is not the only EU member countriy where SLAPP lawsuits are on the rise. In its Rule of Law 2023 report, the Commission found that “few steps” have been taken in Croatia with regard to SLAPP lawsuits and that this “remains a significant problem affecting the professional environment of journalists.”

According to a survey conducted by the Croatian Association of Journalists in May 2023, there are 945 active lawsuits against journalists and the media in Croatia, but it is not known exactly how many of these concern SLAPP lawsuits.

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