The Council of Europe building is seen in Strasbourg, France, on March 14, 2022. CPJ recently joined a statement welcoming the council's action against abusive lawsuits. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)

CPJ joins statement welcoming Council of Europe action against abusive lawsuits

The Committee to Protect Journalists joined other civil society groups and press freedom organizations in a joint statement on Wednesday welcoming recent steps by the Council of Europe to limit abusive lawsuits aimed at restricting public speech.

A Committee of Experts with legal and media freedom backgrounds is set to draft a Recommendation for the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to address strategic lawsuits against public participation, known as SLAPPs.

The joint statement recommended enabling courts to dismiss such lawsuits at an early stage, to sanction individuals who abuse the legal system to limit public participation, to financially and legally support defendants in such cases, and to prevent “forum shopping,” whereby litigants deliberately bring lawsuits in jurisdictions that are inconvenient or expensive for the defendant.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, comprised of parliamentarians from member states, has also tabled a motion on SLAPPs that could lead to a separate resolution to restrict their use, the statement says.

Last year, CPJ and other organizations made a similar call to the Council of Europe to take action against SLAPPs.

The full statement can be read here.