EFJ welcomes the adoption of the Anti-SLAPP Directive, expects Member States to measure up to the task

The European Parliament today adopted with an overwhelming majority (546 in favour, 47 against, 31 abstentions) the Anti-SLAPP Directive, intended to protect journalists and media outlets from abusive litigations. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined the organisations of the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) in welcoming an important step in the fight against SLAPPs, but regrets the considerable room for manoeuvre left to the Member States on several crucial points.


“Some refer to this law as Daphne’s law (Daphne Caruana Galizia) and I think it’s important to mention it here in this room named after Daphne. We achieved an additional layer of protection for journalists. There was no definition of SLAPPs in Europe, we now have one: this is important to help the courts better understand SLAPPs,” said the rapporteur Tiemo Wölken (S&D, Germany) during the press conference following the adoption in the plenary session of the European Parliament, on 27 February 2024.


The adopted Directive provides safeguards for journalists targeted by manifestly unfounded claims or abusive court proceedings, in civil matters, and with cross-border implications. These include an accelerated procedure to dismiss cases at the earliest stage, third-party support to targets during court proceedings, penalties for claimants and compensatory damages for victims.


This directive is only applicable to SLAPP cases (see fact-sheet “What is a SLAPP”) with a cross-border dimension, i.e. when both parties are domiciled in different Member States. However, the definition of “cross-border” was broadened during the final phases of the negotiations to also include “other elements relevant to the situation”, irrespective of the means of communication used. For example, information of public interest published in one country could be considered as a “cross-border” element in another country under this directive. It will be up to the national courts and Member States to implement this definition broadly to cases.


Such an addition, however incomplete, was a key demand of the CASE coalition which mapped SLAPP cases across Europe from 2011 until today. According to the research, only less than 10% of the cases identified and vetted are classical cross-border cases. A strict definition, whereby the directive would only apply to SLAPP targets sued in a purely domestic context, would have failed to counteract the growing problem of SLAPPs in the EU.


“The responsibility now lies with Member States to build on the foundation set by the Anti-SLAPP Directive and draft effective national legislation which includes a broad scope to cover also domestic SLAPP cases, robust guarantees in terms of the early dismissal mechanism to filter out SLAPPs, safeguards in national legislation on damage compensation, as well as a number of non-legal instruments detailed in the Commission’s Recommendations,” said CASE in a press release containing analyses of three key articles.


“The Member States will have two years to comply with the directive and we hope to see anti-SLAPP legislations transposed on-time in all countries and going beyond the minimum guarantees provided by this text. The seriousness of the problem requires European governments to be more ambitious as SLAPPs mushroom across the European Union. We also expect the forthcoming Council of Europe Recommendation to provide further guidance,” said EFJ Director Renate Schroeder.


Source: EFJ


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