The initiative aims to protect journalists and human rights defenders in strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP). These are lawsuits lodged against such people to prevent them from informing the public and reporting on matters of public interest.
SLAPPs are a recent but increasingly prevalent form of interference with public debate in the EU. They represent a threat to pluralistic public debate, as they may lead to the targets censoring themselves. Moreover, they may have a deterrent effect on other potential targets, who may decide not to assert their right to investigate and report on issues of public interest. Due to their public watchdog function, journalists and rights defenders are particularly exposed to SLAPP.
The Commission will consult stakeholders to gather evidence on the problem definition and its consequences, and to provide an opportunity to all interested parties to give their views on the possible policy options and any other comment they may have on the initiative. This initiative aims to better protect journalists and defenders of civic rights from strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) and to secure the proper functioning of the checks and balances of a healthy democracy by protecting the public debate from undue interference.
The main stakeholder groups interested in this consultation are expected to be: (i) citizens; (ii) journalists and rights defenders as being particularly exposed to SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) due to their activities; (iii) NGOs and associations representing the interest of journalists, media or rights defenders, (iv) media and media outlets, publishing houses, (v) bodies or institutions defending human rights; (vi) research and academia; and (vii) legal professionals and their associations, such as judges, prosecutors, lawyers (e.g. having to defend a SLAPP target) as well as bodies in charge of training of legal professionals . Further potential stakeholders are international organisations dealing with a mandate in freedom of expression.