February 29, 2024

29.02.2024 – Anti-SLAPP Directive Adopted in the European Parliament

On 27 February 2024, plenary session in the European Parliament marked a historic moment for journalists and activists across Europe with the adoption of the Anti-SLAPP Directive, aimed at combating the abuse of legal actions known as SLAPPs, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. The document should be published in the official gazette in two months.

The European Parliament adopted with 546 votes in favor, 47 votes against, 31 abstentions the Anti-SLAPP Directive.

This decision is the result of a compromise made on the 29 November 2023, when the European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached an agreement on the proposed directive to protect journalists and human rights activists from abusive cross- border civil proceedings connected to SLAPP cases.

The law is also known as Daphne’s Law in memory of the brave Maltese journalist then 53-year-old Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in 2017 by a car bomb because of her journalists investigations.

This document should enable judges to identify SLAPPs and order their early dismissal, and thus spare the journalists or activists targeted by such proceedings the need to defend the manifestly unfounded claim brought against them in bad faith with the sole purpose of harassing them.

The Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE – https://www.the-case.eu/) welcomed this milestone, emphasizing the directive’s significance in setting minimum standards for protecting individuals and organizations against abusive lawsuit in the form of SLAPPs . With the directive’s adoption, member states are now tasked with translating its provisions into effective national legislation, encompassing a wide scope covering domestic SLAPP cases and those regulated by criminal procedural or administrative law. The responsibility now lies with each member state to draft effective national legislations. It is important that as result of this decision also domestic SLAPP cases and claims governed by criminal procedural law or in administrative procedures are legally covered in the future. EU member states must implement the directive by 2026. SEEMO hopes that all this will have also positive influence on non-EU members in Europe, especially aspiring members. As SLAPP cases are also brought forward by parties from outside the EU, anti-SLAPP measures are a contribution to protect European democracy against external threats.

The Directive sets a minimum standard for protecting media and public watchdogs from SLAPPs inside EU. This directive is only applicable for cross-border cases. The definition of cross-border was extended to take in other elements relevant to the case, so information published in one country could be considered in another country. This decision will provide protection for all those who engage in public participation on matters of public interest, including journalists in cross-border cases. It delivers protections for journalists targeted by manifestly unproven claims or abusive court proceedings in civil matters. These include a procedure to dismiss cases at the earliest stage, fines for claimants and compensatory compensations for victims.

The positive outcome of the plenary session underscores the collective commitment to safeguarding press freedom and public participation in Europe. However, member states must now prioritize the transposition of the directive into national laws to uphold the principles of free speech, democracy, and transparency.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomes the decision by the European Parliament to adopt the Anti-SLAPP Directive, recognizing it as a significant step forward in safeguarding press freedom and protecting journalists and media outlets from abusive legal actions. This directive sets a crucial precedent for the region, demonstrating a commitment to upholding the principles of free speech, transparency, and accountability. SEEMO applauds this proactive measure, which aligns with our mission to promote independent journalism and defend the rights of media professionals.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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