The European Parliament has adopted new rules to protect people from unfounded or abusive court proceedings.
MEPs say the measures mean that victims of powerful forces using strategic lawsuits against public participation – SLAPPs – to silence critical voices will now benefit from increased protection and safeguards in the EU.
Key achievements in Parliament’s report include:
Early dismissal: EU countries shall provide the victims of SLAPPs with the possibility to apply for early dismissal of manifestly unfounded court proceedings. This possibility of early dismissal will likely deter claimants from initiating cases lacking legal merit and protect potential victims from an excessive number of unfounded legal cases;
Member states will be required to provide legal aid, support measures and information to those targeted by a SLAPP;
Burden of proof: where a defendant has applied for early dismissal, it shall be for the claimant to prove that the claim is not manifestly unfounded.
The vote was welcomed by Manon Aubry, Co-president the Left in the European Parliament (La France Insoumise, France) who commented: “All over Europe, the rich and powerful abuse justice systems to silence journalists and activists. The Parliament’s stance for an anti-SLAPP Directive takes on board our priorities. It protects the media and people’s voices against abusive litigation. Let’s make this Directive a reality to stop the powerful from weaponising justice against people’s voices.”
Further reaction came from Left MEP Stelios Kouloglou (Syriza, Greece) who declared: “We are happy to have achieved a solid and satisfying result with all our positions from the CULT Committee being aligned with the outcome of JURI. Our aim was to broaden the scope of the Directive to include the online environment, apply it to ongoing cases, as well as reinforce the cross-border aspects and set clear rules of legal representation and remuneration.”