Initiative against abusive litigation targeting journalists and rights defenders

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Mnenje EESO: Initiative against abusive litigation targeting journalists and rights defenders

Key points

The EESC:

  • considers that strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) are proceedings that are fully or partially unfounded and have as their main purpose to prevent, restrict or penalize public participation;
  • considers that they constitute an abuse of the law and cannot be accepted in democratic states governed by the rule of law. Journalists, especially independent journalists, are the most vulnerable to this threat, but the problem can also affect all other participants in public debate;
  • therefore welcomes the European Commission's initiative aimed to the SLAPP phenomenon, which has been growing in Europe in the last years. While welcoming the mechanisms proposed in the Commission's initiative.

The EESC proposes:

  • the introduction of a preliminary ruling terminating proceedings found to be non-compliant, the consolidation of proceedings at the request of the defendant in his/her designated jurisdiction, the setting of a time limit for the procedure, or the introduction of a fast track or exclusion of the possibility for a person other than the plaintiff to fund the action;
  • a review of national legislation in order to identify mechanisms that could currently serve to counter SLAPPs.;
  • the monitoring of SLAPP actions and the effectiveness of implemented solutions;
  • an evaluation of the SLAPP Directive after a two-year period – rather than the proposed five-year period;
  • working towards a unified approach in both cross-border and national SLAPP cases;
  • a review of national laws with a view to decriminalising defamation;
  • the implementation of appropriate educational measures and training, both for legal professionals (in particular judges and party attorneys) and participants in the public debate - journalists, social activists, human rights defenders, whistleblowers or ordinary citizens.