Work on introducing new anti-SLAPP legislation continues to forge ahead, with MEP Roberta Metsola emphasising the need and responsibility the EU has to protect journalists.
Metsola has been appointed as a rapporteur together with German S&D MEP Tiemo Wölken on new legislative efforts to prevent SLAPP suits against journalists in the EU.
SLAPP suits - Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation - are designed to censor and intimidate journalists and silence critics by overwhelming them with legal costs to defend lawsuits often filed in another country.
Metsola said the aim was for the new legislation to be a watershed moment for the protection of the press.
“Freedom for journalists to do their job cannot be uncoupled from democracy. Protecting journalists means protecting our way of life”, Metsola said.
She expressed her belief that Europe must provide cover for journalists who find themselves caught in the SLAPP crossfire.
SLAPP lawsuits, she warned, can result in journalists being silenced.
MEPs are proposing introducing minimum standards to protect against SLAPP suits across the EU, empowering judges to dismiss vexatious lawsuits and sanctions against those who file them.
Among the suggestions to support journalists is the creation of a one-stop shop to help those facing SLAPP threats.
Touching on journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, Metsola said both she and other journalists faced a hostile environment while reporting in Malta.
Times of Malta has in the passed faced threats of crippling legal action in the US, and is currently defending a case filed by Satabank’s co-owner Christo Georgiev in Bulgaria.
Metsola said the EP was striving to prevent what happened in Malta from happening elsewhere.
She said the proposed anti-SLAPP legislation was one in a series of measures to ensure journalists were better protected.
Co-rapporteur Tiemo Wölken said the EU was entering unchartered territory with the proposed legislation.
He said even gathering information on SLAPP cases was a struggle, and there was no one clear definition of what constitutes such a case.
Going over the timeframes for the anti-SLAPP proposals, Metsola said the aim was for a vote to be held in plenary by October on the report being compiled.
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