Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) in the European Union. A Comparative Study
332 Pages Posted: 12 May 2022
Date Written: June 30, 2021
The European Commission has added the issue of Strategic Lawsuit(s) against Public Participation (SLAPP or SLAPPs) onto its legislative agenda for 2021. In particular, the European Democracy Action Plan targets SLAPP phenomenon.2 This study aims to shed light on the legal environment of SLAPP in the European Union and its Member States. This includes an overview of the legislative environment and court practices relevant to SLAPP. The study also analyses specific cases of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the context of SLAPP. Moreover, an assessment is made of how democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights are interconnected with the issue of SLAPP.
SLAPP cases impose a chilling effect on the free press and the work of civil society organisations. Investigative journalism contributes to the fight against corruption, fraud, clientelism, and other illegal actions or anomalies which have a negative effect on national economies and the EU budget. The effect produced by SLAPP cases discourages inquiry and disclosure which could otherwise lead to a better enforcement of EU law.
The study builds on the results of a previous, preliminary paper by the same research team.3 The researchers used a three-step data collection methodology: 1) a preliminary survey from civil society to map the major issues across the EU, 2) qualitative expert country notes produced by a network of academics and legal practitioners covering all 27 EU Member States, and 3) a focus group discussion to identify solutions at the EU level to the most complex issues.
Keywords: SLAPP, Freedom of Press, Defamation, Protection of Journalists
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