Madrid, 9 June 2020 – Access Info Europe today joined 119 NGOs from across Europe in calling on the European Union to protect freedom of expression and information by acting to end the use of gag lawsuits to harass and silence investigative journalists and public interest defenders.
In an open letter, the organisations expressed their concern about SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), which are brought by powerful actors intending to intimidate and prevent watchdogs such as journalists, activists, trades unions, media, and civil society organisations, from holding them accountable.
The organisations warned about the harmful effects of this type of lawsuit, as they threaten fundamental rights as the freedom of expression, public participation and assembly, and thus jeopardise democracy.
“Journalists and activists contribute to the proper functioning of democracy by informing citizens about the plans and actions of politicians and corporations. SLAPPs attack journalists and activists. Acting against SLAAPs protects freedom of information and hence helps protect democracy; as such it should be a priority for the EU,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info.
The NGOs urged the European Union to adopt the following measures:
- Adopt an Anti-SLAPP Directive, which would introduce exemplary sanctions to be applied to claimants bringing abusive lawsuits, procedural safeguards for SLAPP victims, and other preventive measures.
- Reform the Brussels I Regulation: Modify rules which allow claimants to choose where to make a claim. This will end forum shopping in defamation cases as well as imposing excessive expenses on defendants who are forced to hire and pay for lawyers in countries where they are not based.
- Reform the Rome II Regulation so that it regulates which national law applies to a defamation case. This will prevent claimants from selecting legal regime where laws that are restrictive of freedom of expression might favour their case.
- Support all victims of SLAPPs: Allocate funds for support all victims of SLAPPs, especially with legal defence; train judges and practitioners, and create an public EU register of companies that engage repetitively in SLAPPs.
For more information, please contact:
Paula Domínguez, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
paula[at]access-info.org +34 637 226 609
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director | Access Info Europe
helen[at]access-info.org +34 637 226 609