Today Index on Censorship is publishing “Slapped down: Six journalists on the legal efforts to silence them”, a report that includes the testimonies of journalists from across Europe, who have faced legal threats and actions as a result of their work.
“What the report shows is the ease with which the law can be used to intimidate those who are reporting in the public interest,” said senior policy research and advocacy officer Jessica Ní Mhainín, who has been leading Index’s Slapps work. “It demonstrates the impact that is has on journalists, both personally and professionally, and the chilling effect it can have on the press freedom more broadly.”
The publication of Index’s report coincides with the publication of “Protecting Public Watchdogs Across the EU: A Proposal for an EU Anti-SLAPP Law”. The proposed law is endorsed by 60 organisations, including Index on Censorship. If implemented, it would ensure that Slapps are dismissed at an early stage, that litigants would have to pay for abusing the law, and that Slapp targets would be provided with support to defend themselves.
“As it stands, whether or not an investigation about a powerful or wealthy entity comes to light relies in large part on a journalist’s courage and the good-will of the media outlet publishing their work. Are they willing to risk being sued?,” said Ní Mhainín. “Why are we allowing the fulfilment of such an important public service to be a potential risk? Why are we not providing more support to those whose work is so critical to our democracies?”
“We need an EU anti-Slapp directive to protect these watchdogs, whose work helps to hold the powerful to account and to keep our democratic debate alive.”