By Mathew Carr
April 28-29, 2022: EU lawmakers are putting together legislation that will increase risks for companies and wealthy individuals who instigate litigation against journalists, activists and academics, according to a panel of officials, lobbyists and experts.
Often defamation lawsuits or threats of the same, the suits can cause intimidated reporters to move onto an easier story, reducing scrutiny of the wealthy.
The EU’s plan is especially interesting because of its “cross border” element. It focuses on those seeking to quell debates that are clearly in the public interest, for example on climate action. It’s seeking to downplay the importance of where claimants or journalists are from or where they are based.
Such litigation is known as a “Strategic lawsuit against public participation” or SLAPP.
Naming and shaming will be important, under the EU proposal.
Companies and wealthy people may also need to pay “compensatory damages” if they can’t prove their litigation is legit. The burden of proof will be on them, apparently, if the plan flies.
To be sure, some defamation litigation is in the public interest.
Yet, EU sources reckon the fact that the bloc passed tighter whistleblowing protections boosts the chance it will pass these additional anti-SLAPP measures that will give added comfort to those who speak out against wrongdoing.
The law probably won’t be agreed and in place until next year at the earliest and countries might beat the EU to it.
The CASE Coalition Press Briefing on EU Anti-SLAPP Proposals took place earlier Thursday in Brussels.
Read about CarrZee’s alleged reverse lawfare litigation here.
Reuters: EU proposes law to curb lawsuits meant to silence journalists, rights advocates
3 MIN READ
BRUSSELS, April 27 (Reuters) – The European Union executive proposed on Wednesday laws to curb excessive litigation aimed at silencing critical journalists and rights advocates by governments and businesses, a form of harassment it said was on the rise from Croatia to Poland.
In its latest health check of the state of democracy in the 27-nation bloc, the Brussels-based European Commission said last year the so-called SLAPPs – or strategic lawsuits against public participation – were “a serious concern”.
“Manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings against public participation are a recent but increasingly prevalent phenomenon in the European Union,” the Commission said on Wednesday in proposing new legal remedies for the bloc.
Such disproportionate lawsuits, often based on defamation clauses, strive to intimidate the targets, exhaust their resources and tie them in multiple legal proceedings, often in several jurisdictions, said the Commission….
(Updates with key points from panel discussion. More to come)