A cornerstone of healthy and thriving democracies is a pluralistic democratic debate that ensures that citizens can actively participate in the democratic debate. To do so, citizens must have access to reliable information and be able to form their own judgement in a public space where different views can be expressed.
Journalists and human rights defenders play a crucial role in feeding this public debate including by investigating and informing citizens on and pointing to issues of public interest.
What the Commission is doing
On 27 April 2022, the European Commission presented a set of proposals against manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings against public participation (known as SLAPPs). The planned measures are a mix of legislation and recommendations designed to equip journalists and human rights defenders who are targets of SLAPP with the tools to fight back against abusive court proceedings.
This is part of a set of measures announced in the European Democracy Action Plan issued on 3 December 2020.
An Expert group formed by legal practitioners, journalists, academics, members of media and civil society organisations has been assisting the Commission in this task.
The Commission’s proposal: A multi-pronged approach
The EU action consists of a proposal for a Directive and a Recommendation. The aim of the proposed Directive is to provide targeted civil procedural safeguards against SLAPPs with cross-border implications brought against natural or legal persons, in particular journalists and human rights defenders. The Recommendation will complement the proposed Directive, and cover also purely national cases. It will also encompass domestic criminal and administrative law adjustments to be made. The focus is on training, awareness raising, support and monitoring.