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S&Ds: End to abusive lawsuits now!

Date

12 Nov 2021

Sections

Justice & Home Affairs

The European Parliament has called for action that brings an end to the widespread practice of abusive lawsuits aimed at silencing journalists and civil society.

In today’s plenary vote with 444 votes in favour, MEPs demanded EU-wide anti-SLAPPs legislation, as well as clear rules on the jurisdiction of defamation cases, to stop a rising phenomenon that threatens media freedom and freedom of expression in the EU.

At 14h00 today, the S&D rapporteur Tiemo Wölken will take part in a press conference in the Anna Politkovskaya press conference room in Brussels, with both physical and remote participation. The press conference is being web streamed live and journalists can ask questions remotely via Interactio.

Tiemo Wölken, S&D rapporteur and spokesperson for legal affairs committee and, said:

 "SLAPP lawsuits are a threat to the rule of law and seriously undermine the fundamental rights to expression, information and association even before they materialise. They are a form of legal harassment and an abuse of the justice system that is used increasingly by powerful individuals and organisations who try to avoid public scrutiny and dissuade those who carry it out from doing so. The aim of a SLAPP is not to win the case, but to intimidate and deter many journalists and activists from making information known to the public, thus resulting in self-censorship. For us socialists it is clear:  Our courts should not be seen as a playground for powerful individuals, companies and politicians. Our courts should not be overburdened or abused for personal gain.

 "As S&D, we have managed to widen the scope to include all actors engaging in public participation. Journalists and their work must be protected; however, they are not the only targets of these lawsuits. We have compiled a set of legislative, but also non-legislative measures such as the setting up of a robust fund or the introduction of effective legal assistance, information and practical advice and support provided by a one-stop-shop for ‘first aid’ to SLAPP victims. With this initiative report, we will call on the Commission to come forward with very concrete and feasible measures, including in regards to libel tourism and form shopping."

 Łukasz Kohut, S&D rapporteur for the civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:

 “The rich and the powerful, including government figures, have endless resources to weaken journalism and silence any critics through abusive lawsuits. Too many journalists, media organisations and NGOs regularly face smear campaigns through the use of these targeted lawsuits. But no one should fear legal consequences for speaking the truth. That is why the European Parliament has been urgently working to strengthen the voice of those working in the pursuit of the truth and put an end to abusive lawsuits. No effort to protect journalists or civil society is too much. With media freedom already under severe strain in the EU, we need the Commission to put proposals on the table that include binding safeguards for victims of SLAPPs. Across the EU, national governments must also fully implement the recommendations from the Council of Europe on the protection and safety of journalists. We have to act to counter any dangerous effort to undermine media freedom and democracy in the EU.”

Note to editors:

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are a form of retaliatory lawsuit that aims to deter the freedoms of expression, information and association on matters of public interest. In 2021, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights observed that the problem of SLAPPs is increasing and poses a threat to freedom of expression in Europe.

 

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