Vera Jourova, vice-president and commissioner for Values and Transparency of the European Commission, makes a statement after receiving a European Union directive against SLAPP lawsuits on February 1, 2022 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. (AFP/John Thys)

CPJ welcomes European Union’s anti-SLAPP initiative

Brussels, April 27, 2022 – The Committee to Protect Journalists on Wednesday welcomed the European Commission’s move to pass an initiative seeking to address the abuse of SLAPP lawsuits in Europe.

SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against public participation) are abusive lawsuits filed by powerful officials, businesspeople, or corporations against individuals, including critical journalists or news outlets, to restrict or censor critical reporting. They are characterized by long and costly legal proceedings that aim to deter journalists from pursuing their reporting.

On Wednesday, April 27, the European Commission put forward a Directive requiring member states to make necessary legal reforms to prevent cross-border SLAPPs, including early dismissal of cases and compensation for damages. On the same day, a Recommendation was also proposed to Member States which, although not legally binding, encourages authorities to tackle SLAPPs at a national level by putting in place legal safeguards and providing support to victims.

“This move by the European Commission to stop SLAPP lawsuits demonstrates important, decisive action,” said Tom Gibson, CPJ’s European Union representative. “However, the initiative needs the support of member states if journalists are going to reap the benefits of greater legal protection against these abusive lawsuits. We are not there yet.”