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European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

European Commission proposed legislation to protect journalists from SLAPPs

The European Commission today published two texts aimed at curbing the rise of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) in Europe. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined the partners of the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) in welcoming a landmark step in the right direction. The EFJ urges the Member States to implement the recommendation without delay.

As part of the European Democracy Action Plan, the European Commission presented on 27 April 2022 a package including a proposal for a directive (binding) and a recommendation (non-binding) to the Member States to urge them to take action against the rise of abusive lawsuits against journalists and media outlets in the European Union...

The Commission’s proposal includes:

  • A proposal for a directive limited to civil law proceedings with a cross-border nature (ie. involving another EU country, or concerning a matter of public interest relevant to more than one Member State, or the claimant has initiated concurrent or previous court proceedings against the same defendants in another Member State)
  • A recommendation complementing the directive and encouraging Member States to go further and address national cases of SLAPPs

Although the directive addresses only a certain type of SLAPP, it has a broad personal scope, addressing anybody who wants to hold power to account including journalists but also activists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, etc. It includes key safeguards and remedies, such as early dismissal mechanisms (along with reversal of burden of proof, stay of proceedings, accelerated proceedings), a regime of sanctions for harassers, and remedial and protective measures for victims (e.g. compensation of costs).

The recommendation sets out guidance for Member States on key aspects to effectively tackle SLAPPs, such as removing prison sentences for defamation, training of legal professionals and judiciary staff at all court levels, awareness raising activities and support mechanisms for victims. It also encourages data collection, reporting and monitoring of SLAPPs. The recommendation takes effect immediately...

The directive will be submitted to the European Parliament and Council of Ministers for amendments and adoption.