Journalists and social activists will be better protected within the EU with the new Directive on strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) adopted last night during a final negotiation between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. Also known as “Slapp procedure” these practices refer to legal actions taken by governments or private entities against isolated individuals, particularly journalists, with the aim of silencing them. Renew Europe, which played an active role in broadening the scope of this legislation and facilitating access to justice for victims of these attempts at intimidation, welcomes this crucial step to consolidate media freedom in Europe.
Ilana CICUREL (Renaissance, France), Renew Europe shadow rapporteur for the SLAPP directive in the parliamentary committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), said: “Using judicial harassment to stifle freedom of information is not tolerable in a democracy. The EU is finally equipping itself with a legal instrument to protect journalists, human rights defenders, academics and other actors in public debate against “SLAPP procedures” aimed at silencing them. The directive enshrines the principle of an immediate freezing of procedures when prosecutions are manifestly unfounded and requires sanctions and full reimbursement of defence costs when abuse is established. This is essential in a system that seeks to protect the weak against the strong.”
Ramona STRUGARIU (RePER, Romania), rapporteur for the opinion in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), which had some exclusive competences for the SLAPP directive, added: “ The Daphne Directive is finally here and is a first step for recognising and protecting those harassed in courts for speaking out on matters of public interest. Investigative journalists and activists can now rely on a dependable piece of legislation that gives them the tools to fight back when the rich and powerful want to silence them.”
It is the European Parliament which initiated this legislation, born from a 2018 parliamentary motion calling for a strong reaction from the EU, after two assassinations of investigative journalists in 6 months, the Maltese blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, in October 2017, as she exposed revelations about corruption in her country, and the Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak murdered with his partner in February 2018 while investigating the extortion of European agricultural subsidies in Slovakia.