Council of Europe issues anti-SLAPP law recommendations

The Council of Europe has issued recommendations for the implementation of the European Union’s anti-SLAPP directive that was approved in February.

The directive aims to protect journalists and civil society from vexatious and abusive lawsuits known as SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

The CoE’s recommendations, issued last week, are designed to serve as guidelines for how the directive should be properly implemented by individual member states.

The directive, dubbed Daphne’s Law after assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, only set minimum requirements for EU member states. Individual nations are expected to implement a more robust version through national legislation.

The CoE recommendations were drafted specifically to target areas of the directive that were watered down during the EU’s legislative process. Limitations introduced by individual member states to the European Commission’s initial proposals led to criticisms of the directive being unambitious.

The recommendations include a list of “SLAPP indicators” designed to assist courts in identifying abusive lawsuits. Proper identification would aid early dismissal mechanisms introduced through the directive, filtering out abusive claims.

Indicators include the “exploitation of an imbalance of power,” the delaying of proceedings “causing disproportionate costs to the defendant,” and smear campaigns accompanying the legal action, among others.

The recommendations were welcomed by the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE), which characterised them as a “far more robust and detailed set of standards than the EU directive that will prove crucial  during transposition.”

The issue of SLAPPs was at the centre of a conference hosted by The Shift last year, entitled ‘Silencing Freedom. Weaponising the Law.’ Panellists discussed how SLAPP suits have evolved past simple defamation suits, abusing other laws, sometimes even ones ostensibly designed to protect journalists.

In February, Malta was crowned ‘SLAPP country of the year’  by the CASE coalition – an inititiative designed to promote awareness of the issue.

The title was “mostly due to 40 Freedom of Information requests filed by The Shift that were subsequently challenged in court by the government,” CASE said in its report last year.

                           

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Emanjel Cilia Debono
Emanjel Cilia Debono
1 month ago

The SLAPP recommendations should be immediately adopted and enacted into Malta’s legislation.

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