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8 Jun 2020

Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation: Southeast Asia cases & recommendations for governments, businesses, & civil society

A business-linked SLAPP has these characteristics:

  • It is a civil, criminal, or administrative lawsuit;
  • It is filed against a human rights defender (HRD) exercising his/her freedoms of expression, association, and/or peaceful assembly to speak about and/or act on matters related to a business' operations; 
  • It has the intention of silencing or intimidating the HRD from further engaging in criticism, opposition, public participation, and similar activities.

In Southeast Asia, only the Philippines has rules defining what a SLAPP is but limits its application to environment-related cases. Despite this, there are promising developments in the rulings or various courts in the region that should provide the necessary impetus for deeper legal reform against SLAPPs. Some courts have explicitly recognised the value of activists and protected their right to criticise prejudicial business operations. Other courts have extended protections to journalists and expert witnesses. Some courts upheld the right of the people to seek redress and remedy harms caused by businesses. This Briefing Note highlights these cases as starting point for recommendations of deeper reform in policy and practice of governments, businesses, and civil society.