The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament have welcomed proposals from the Commission to end the use of abusive lawsuits against journalists, NGOs and civil society in the EU.
In November 2021, the European Parliament called for new EU rules to stop abusive legal action intended to intimidate and silence critical voices. A large majority of MEPs demanded an EU Directive against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) to establish minimum standards and to protect victims while preventing and sanctioning the misuse of anti-SLAPP measures.
On Wednesday 1 June the S&D Group will host stakeholders and Commission vice-president Vera Jourova to discuss the new proposals at a public event on Protecting journalists, NGOs and civil society against unfair abusive lawsuits with the new anti-SLAPP Directive.
Tiemo Wölken MEP, co-rapporteur on the Parliament’s report on the undue use of SLAPPs, said: “At a time when journalists and human rights defenders face unprecedented levels of online abuse and surveillance, it is our duty to do more to protect journalists in the EU. The rising number of abusive lawsuits against journalists, NGOs and civil society in the EU is particularly alarming. We welcome the Commission’s proposals for a directive to put in place EU-wide rules to protect journalists, human rights defenders and civil society, and to end the misuse and abuse of our justice systems. Courts cannot be a playground used by the rich and powerful to silence their critics. The rule of law, freedom of speech and freedom of association are all threatened and undermined as long as this type of harmful litigation continues in Europe. The prospect of financial hardship, as well as the psychological damage inflicted on victims of SLAPPs, leads to self-censorship that restricts the truth from being reported and damages democracy.”
“I am very pleased that the Commission proposal shares the Parliament’s ambition and takes many of our key demands on board. In particular, the introduction of early dismissal and the reversed burden of proof will be a relief for SLAPP victims. The possibility to claim for damages for material and immaterial damage, both within the Union and also in third countries, as well as the introduction of possible penalties for plaintiffs, will help SLAPP victims even more.”