The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) welcomed the letter sent to Frans Timmerman, the vice-president of the European commission, initiated by six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on 19 February 2018 who called for the introduction of a new EU directive that addresses Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) towards journalists.
The letter was signed by the following MEPs: David Casa (European People’s Party), Ana Gomes (Socialists and Democrats), Monica Macovei (European Conservatives and Reformists), Maite Pagazaurtundúa (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats), Stelios Kouloglou (European United Left, GUE/NGL), and Benedek Jávor (Greens).
The proposed EU Anti-SLAPP directive would aim to protect journalists from vexatious, abusive lawsuits and other forms of legal threats by companies and governments. It would include:
- The ability for investigative journalists and independent media to request that vexatious lawsuits in the EU be expediently dismissed and claim compensation;
- The establishment of punitive fines on firms pursuing these practices when recourse is made to jurisdictions outside the EU;
- The setting up of a SLAPP fund to support investigative journalists and independent media that choose to resist malicious attempts to silence them and to assist in the recovery of funds due to them;
- The setting-up of an EU register that names and shames firms that pursue these abusive practices.
“This practice is abusive, poses a threat to media freedom and has no place in the European Union”, the MEPs stated in their letter. They expressed high concern about the impact of SLAPPs in Malta, where investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb last October. Around the time of her murder she was being sued by Pilatus Bank, a Maltese financial institution she had criticised frequently in her reports.
The MEPs are currently waiting for the European Commission to respond. David Casa stated to Maltese daily Times of Malta that they might renew the call during the European Parliament’s plenary session. “But more concretely we could also use a particular mechanism to draft the directive ourselves and send it to the Commission to propose, under a provision of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,” he explained. “What is certain is that we are determined and committed to push for this legislation for as long as necessary.” The European Federation of Journalists strongly supports this initiative.
Photo Credit: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP