News Media Europe

Report on The impact of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) on the news media sector

Position papers , October 25, 2021

Download News Media Europe’s report on the impact of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) on the news media sector here.

As part of its December 2020 European Democracy Action Plan, the European Commission committed to legislating for the protection of news media professionals facing strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). News Media Europe has joined the expert group composed of specialized lawyers, academia, NGOs, journalists and press representatives, to collect evidence, identify legal issues and formulate concrete recommendations within the EU’s competence. The European Commission has set an ambitious agenda with the aim of delivering a legislative proposal by Spring 2022.

Over the past months, News Media Europe interviewed press publishers, in-house lawyers, journalists and editors-in-chief to collect evidence on the impact of such lawsuits on the news media sector. This document is a collection of our findings broken down by jurisdiction and makes 10 conclusions and 10 recommendations on the basis of our findings.

We recommend:

  1. To include newsrooms and press publishers in the scope of the EU Directive on SLAPPs to grant them adequate protection against SLAPPs.
  2. To provide EU harmonized rules recognising and defining SLAPPs to identify abusive lawsuits and have them dismissed at an early stage.
  3. When assessing dismissal, to protect investigative journalism by considering a web of indicators such as parties’ unequal powers, media freedom, public interest and contribution to democracy.
  4. To review the Brussels I (recast) and Rome II Regulations to make abusive lawsuits more difficult and limit forum shopping with stricter conflicts of laws rules for defamation and privacy.
  5. To limit the number of connected claims brought by the same plaintiff, its representatives or affiliates, against newsrooms. An EU database should help identify sources of abusive claims.
  6. Based on the European Court of Human Rights 2017 ruling, to limit the award of reputational damages and favour amiable remedies as a first resort.
  7. To reinforce the role of press councils and non-judicial remedies to exclude frivolous claims and strategies aimed at financially asphyxiating press publishers.
  8. To support training for press publishers’ lawyers to allow them to identify and deal with SLAPPs faced by the company and its editorial team.
  9. To create a support network at national and European levels, raise awareness and bring visibility to the different types of support available to victims of SLAPPs.
  10. To launch an EU-wide campaign for media freedom and the safety of journalists

Contacts:

Wout van Wijk, Executive Director, wout.vanwijk@newsmediaeurope.eu

Aurore Raoux, EU Policy Manager, aurore.raoux@newsmediaeurope.eu