EU Commission’s draft directive would ban SLAPP lawsuits by corporations, governments and powerful individuals to silence dissent
Journalists exposing human rights abuses or environmental activists campaigning against the destruction of nature may soon have one less thing to worry about, as the European Commission releases a new draft EU law later on Wednesday to help prevent legal bullying by corporations, public officials, and powerful individuals.
The EU directive against strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) will make it harder for powerful interests to initiate costly and often baseless lawsuits with the aim of intimidating and silencing dissent in cross-border cases.
Greenpeace International legal counsel Charlie Holt said: “It’s encouraging to see the EU Commission taking decisive steps to tackle the growing problem of legal bullying in Europe to silence journalists and activists. SLAPPs impact all those who work to hold the powerful to account, with environmental activists among those most exposed to oppressive legal tactics. It’s in the interest of all those concerned with the health of European democracies and the planet that the legislative measures proposed today are passed into law.”
The Commission’s draft will be made up of legislative and non-legislative components and is expected to include measures to filter SLAPPs out of court, sanction those who engage in SLAPPs, and minimise the damage caused to SLAPP victims. The focus will be on cross-border cases, but the EU law is also expected to spark national measures against SLAPPs.
Greenpeace and other environmental organisations have long been the target of SLAPPs and have been calling for an EU anti-SLAPP law as part of the CASE coalition.
In March 2022, Greenpeace Spain and other groups were sued for defamation by agribusiness Valle de Odieta, after exposing water and soil pollution from a giant industrial cow farm owned by the company in northern Spain. In another example, in 2017, the executive director of Greenpeace France was sued for defamation by Socfin, a subsidiary of the Bollorré conglomerate involved in the palm oil and rubber trade, after Greenpeace France published an investigation into the group’s links to deforestation in Africa.
On Thursday 28 April at 11am-12pm CET, the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) will hold a special press briefing about the EU anti-SLAPP law with European commissioner Věra Jourová, in charge of the file. Journalists can register for the event.
Image: Kristian Buus (Greenpeace)