02 May, 2022

Liberal Commissioners step up for human rights and journalist freedom

The assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist, shocked Europe back in 2017. The journalist was facing more than 40 lawsuits during her investigation of the infamous Panama Papers before she was brutally killed in a car bomb. From that moment on, she has been the symbol of the fight for journalistic freedom, human rights and rule of law.

In this context and with Caruana Galizia in the back of their minds, European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová and Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, launched a directive to counter the Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, also known as SLAPP.

These lawsuits are abusive litigation to hinder journalists and human rights defenders from doing their work. Journalists and human right defenders, who are subject to SLAPPs, face intimidation, harassment or financial pressure, because of their professional activities. SLAPP cases are on the rise in the EU and are a real threat to free speech, violating rule of law and human rights.

Jourová wants to improve the situation of journalists and human rights defenders with this Anti SLAPP initiative. The Commission envisions to:

  • provide courts with tools to identify and address SLAPP cases,
  • protect targets evenly across the European Union,
  • and, prevent the phenomenon from further eroding the European democratic values.

In a democracy, wealth and power cannot give anyone an advantage over truth. With these measures we are helping to protect those who take risks and speak up when the public interest is at stake – when they report for example on allegations of money laundering and corruption, environmental and climate matters or other issues that are important to us all” stated Jourová.

The EU will always protect freedom of expression and information. Today, we are taking important steps to safeguard journalists and civil society who are increasingly under threat from SLAPPs. We are now providing instruments to keep that abusive practice in check,” added Reynders.

Photo credit: © Christophe Licoppe, European Union, 2022.

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