On 28 April 2021, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta. After the Greens/EFA success in domestic legislation against the lack of press and media freedom in Malta, the European Greens called on the European Commision to come forward with a legislative proposal specific to anti-censorship lawsuits to safeguard the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

On behalf of journalists, rights defenders, campaigning organizations, and other watchdogs, Green Party leaders are demanding structural reforms and resolute enforcement of European Law. According to the organization, the use of censorship lawsuits is a threat to European democracy because they violate the right to freedom of the press and to hold leaders accountable. These vexatious lawsuits are referred to as Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) which is a form of legal harassment designed to intimidate and silence the aforementioned groups.

An independent press and the protection of journalists from SLAPP lawsuits is key to hold governments throughout Europe to account.

SVEN GIEGOLD

The Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP): A threat posed to democracy

SLAPP suits are censorship lawsuits used to intimidate critics by burdening them with costly legal battles until the targets are unable to operate. The litigants are often powerful and wealthy individuals who don’t expect to win the lawsuit but rather try to interfere with the opposition’s ability to disagree with them by draining their resources.

Various groups and organizations highlighted the necessity to protect public watchdogs from SLAPP suits. An EU Proposal for ANTI-SLAPP law was introduced on December 1st, 2020 by various collaborating NGOs. The proposal stressed the fact that “no EU country has enacted targeted rules that specifically shield against SLAPP suits”. Morevoer, Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe is also providing means and assistance for SLAPP targets and advocating for anti-censorship reforms.

Greens expressing support for Anti-SLAPP Regulations 

European Greens have been vocal about anti-censorship lawsuits on various occasions. In response to the resolution passed on April 28th, German MEP and spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group Sven Giegold commented on the success of the domestic Anti-SLAPP resolution in Malta and called for Anti-Censorship reforms in a statement published on the European Greens website. He said, “The European Parliament will not stand idly by when the rule of law and the lives of journalists are at risk. This resolution sends a strong signal to the Maltese Government and the European Commission. An independent press and the protection of journalists from SLAPP lawsuits is key to hold governments throughout Europe to account. I call on the European Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal for a European Anti-SLAPP regulation. In the meantime, the Greens/EFA have successfully introduced wording calling for domestic Anti-SLAPP legislation in Malta in this resolution.”

On World Press Freedom Day, European Greens have also highlighted the importance of Anti-SLAPP regulations on Twitter, calling SLAPP suits “a threat to our collective right of information”. 

Zeynep Karageldi

Zeynep is from Izmir, Turkey. She is a second-year undergraduate student at McGill University in Montreal pursuing a BA in Political Science. Passionate about environmental science and environmental law, Zeynep likes to address issues from both scientific and political perspectives as a writer. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies and traveling.

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