Brussels, February 22, 2018--The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed a call from members of the European Parliament on Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans to introduce a new European Union directive to stop abusive lawsuits against critical journalists.
Such lawsuits, known as strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), can harass and intimidate journalists into silence by requiring them to make repeated court appearances and pay exorbitant legal fees.
"The commission should act as soon as possible on this recommendation by members of the European Parliament and protect press freedom by ending the abuse of these lawsuits," said Tom Gibson, CPJ's EU representative. "Journalists in the European Union must be allowed to investigate sensitive topics without fear or interference."
The cross-party group of MEPs proposed that the directive cover the ability of journalists to request the dismissal of lawsuits and claim compensation; introduce punitive fines for businesses pursuing cases through jurisdictions outside the EU; and establish a SLAPP fund to help journalists as well as an EU register to publicly name companies that abuse such lawsuits.