Eurocadres calls for end to SLAPP lawsuits
Our response to the public consultation against abusive litigation (SLAPP) targeting journalists and rights defenders
SLAPPs are disproportionately brought forward by powerful actors and are used to harass and silence those speaking out in the public interest. They bring a number of threats, particularly to democracy and fundamental rights, access to justice and judicial cooperation, the enforcement of EU law, including in connection to the internal market and the protection of the EU budget and to the freedom of movement.
Action is needed immediately, and Eurocadres fully supports the draft report of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties (LIBE) and Legal Affairs committees (JURI), adopted in October, which calls for the following:
- An ambitious legal framework in the upcoming Media Freedom Act;
- The prevention of ‘libel tourism’ or ‘forum shopping’ through uniform and predictable defamation rules, reform of Brussels I and Rome II Regulations and by establishing that cases should be decided by the courts (and according to the laws) of the defendant’s habitual place of residence;
- An EU directive establishing minimum standards, which should protect victims while preventing and sanctioning the misuse of anti-SLAPP measures, e.g. by authoritarian governments weaponising them to protect their government-organised NGOs;
- Rules on early dismissal by the courts so that SLAPPs can be stopped quickly based on objective criteria, such as the number and nature of lawsuits or actions brought by the claimant, the choice of jurisdiction and law, or the existence of a clear and burdensome imbalance of power;
- Sanctions for the claimant if they fail to justify why their action is not abusive, rules to ensure the consideration of abusive motives even if early dismissal is not granted, and the payment of costs and damages suffered by the victim;
- Safeguards against combined SLAPPs, i.e. those combining criminal and civil liability charges, and measures to ensure that defamation (which is a criminal offence in most member states, despite calls for its decriminalisation by the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) cannot be used for SLAPPs;
- Financial aid for legal and psychological help for victims of SLAPPs and organisations assisting them, and adequate training of judges and lawyers.
The EU must ensure that the scope of anti SLAPP measures include everybody affected by SLAPPs, including journalists, activists, trade unionists, academics, digital security researchers, human rights defenders, media and civil society organisations, among others.