Over 60 editors, journalists, writers, publishers and experts call on the UK Government to commit to a standalone anti-SLAPP law
The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition, of which Index is a co-chair, has co-ordinated and sent a letter to the Government ahead of the King's Speech on 7 November
21 Sep 23

Photo: House of Lords 2022 / Annabel Moeller (CC BY 2.0)

Over 60 editors, journalists, writers, publishers, academics and experts, including the CEOs of ITN and Pan Macmillan, as well as the editors of The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Private Eye, Tortoise and The Mirror have written to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk KC MP to request that a standalone anti-SLAPP Bill is included in the King’s Speech. The letter has been sent ahead of the King’s Speech on 7 November, in which the Government will outline its priorities for the forthcoming parliamentary session.

The Government has already committed to bring forward a package of measures that take aim at Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). Launching the commitment in July 2022, the former Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab said: “I’m announcing reforms to uphold freedom of speech, end the abuse of our justice system, and defend those who bravely shine a light on corruption.” However, over a year after that commitment was made there has been little progress towards universal protection against SLAPPs. While limited anti-SLAPP provisions have been included in a recent amendment to the forthcoming Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, this is only a partial victory.

“As an important part of the global financial system, it is vital that the UK ensures journalists and public watchdogs are able to continue their work without risking legal harassment. However, this amendment does not go far enough as it only covers claims relating to the ‘public interest in protecting society from economic crimes’” the signatories said in their letter to the Justice Secretary. “It also introduces an unnecessary element of uncertainty by making the operation of the law contingent on the belief of the defendant and the perceived purpose of the filer.”

As this King’s Speech is the last to take place during this Parliament and before the expected next general election, it is the last opportunity for this Government to realise its commitment to stamp out SLAPPs. The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s Model Anti-SLAPP Law produced with support from leading legal and industry experts, provides a road map towards protecting public watchdogs from legal harassment. Index on Censorship is a co-chair of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition which coordinated and sent the letter.

“ITN supports this initiative as an organisation committed to ensuring that journalists can undertake public interest investigations without fear of harassment or financial penalty. ITN’s motto is to bring truth to life, which is based on 67 years of independent journalism, and the belief that stories we can trust empower us all. An Anti-SLAPP Bill would signal to the world that the UK proudly supports journalism that can ask difficult questions and hold power to account and ultimately improve the world we live in.”

Rachel Corp, CEO of ITN

“This campaign to address the misuse of libel laws to the detriment of serious journalism is gathering the momentum it deserves. This country is unique in the hurdles it presents for public interest investigations and the chilling effect of its law before stories are even published. Independent, fearless journalism comes at a premium and our laws should not be used as an additional obstacle to publication.”

Pia Sarma, editorial legal director at Times Newspapers Ltd

“Until there are serious legislative steps, taken by Parliament to address the abuse of the UK legal system to target journalists, it’s safe to assume those abuses will continue. My own case demonstrates the absurdity of the current situation, and inaction at this stage is nothing less than complicity in the further abuse of the UK legal system, and a sad reflection on the inability of the British government to take blindingly obvious action on protecting fundamental democratic principles.”

Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat

“SLAPPs are a real and growing threat to democracy, and we will all benefit from protecting journalists against these abusive lawsuits.”

Paul Caruana Galizia, reporter at Tortoise

“Many victims of sexual violence already go through immense amounts of internalised shame, especially when failed by the justice system. As a result, social media is now often sadly our last hope to protect others from abuse. But now, when we finally dare speak, we’re punished by SLAPP threats that are designed to destroy. It’s not a fair fight.”

Nina Cresswell, journalist, writer and former SLAPP target

The letter and list of signatories are below. Alternatively click here to read a PDF version


Sent Electronically


Mr. Alex Chalk KC MP, Secretary of State for Justice

Rt. Hon. Rishi Sunak MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 

Rt. Hon. Lucy Frazer KC MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Rt. Hon. James Cleverly MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

Ms. Shabana Mahmood MP, Shadow Labour Secretary of State for Justice

Rt. Hon. Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs, Justice and Northern Ireland

Mr. Chris Stephens MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice)

Mr. Paul Philip, Chief Executive, Solicitors Regulation Authority

Mr. Mark Neale, Director-General, The Bar Standards Board

Mr. Matthew Hill, Chief Executive, Legal Services Board

Ms. Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights 

Ms. Teresa Ribeiro, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Representative on Freedom of the Media

Ms. Irene Khan, United Nations Special Rapporteur on on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression


20 September 2023

Dear Alex Chalk KC MP,

We call on you to include an Anti-SLAPP law in the King’s Speech

We joined the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition in welcoming the UK Government’s commitment to address Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) and their impact on the British justice system. However, we remain concerned by the lack of meaningful progress since the announcement in July 2022. The inclusion of  a commitment in the forthcoming King’s Speech to bring forward a standalone Anti-SLAPP Bill will be an unequivocal statement that the UK Government is committed to stamp out SLAPPs.

We support the anti-SLAPP amendment to the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill as a significant step in the right direction to protect public interest reporting on economic crime. As an important part of the global financial system, it is vital that the UK ensures journalists and public watchdogs are able to continue their work without risking legal harassment. However, this amendment does not go far enough as it only covers claims relating to the “public interest in protecting society from economic crimes”. It also introduces an unnecessary element of uncertainty by making the operation of the law contingent on the belief of the defendant and the perceived purpose of the filer. The Government itself has acknowledged the current amendment as “the first step in cracking down on SLAPPs used to limit freedom of speech,” not the full realisation of its commitment.

Therefore, the next step must be a standalone Anti-SLAPP Bill to extend protections to everyone who speaks out in the public interest. The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition has demonstrated how this can be done with their Model Law which we shared with your office last year. As a result, there is no reason why a standalone Anti-SLAPP Bill shouldn’t be included in the King’s Speech. Only with the fulfilment of a universally applicable law will the Government’s commitment be realised.

Many of the cases that have been monitored by the Coalition would have been unaffected by the proposed amendment. This includes the legal threat from the Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin against Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins, ENRC’s SLAPP action against journalist and author Tom Burgis and the defamation action brought against Nina Cresswell by her abuser after she bravely spoke out to protect other women, to name but a few. Cases like these demonstrate the need for an anti-SLAPP bill that protects everyone speaking out.

The Government will, in its own words, “set out further legislation beyond economic crime when parliamentary time allows.” This can only happen if an Anti-SLAPP Bill is included in the King’s Speech, which will outline the Government’s programme of work in the coming Parliamentary session. This would be the last opportunity to realise the commitment before the expected general election.

Addressing this issue has broad public and political support and represents a significant opportunity to protect free speech and shield British courts from abuse.

Kind regards,

Rachel Corp, CEO, ITN

Alison Phillips, Editor, The Mirror

Chris Evans, Editor, The Telegraph

Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief, The Guardian

Victoria Newton, Editor-in-Chief, The Sun

Paul Webster, Editor, The Observer

Roula Khalaf, Editor, The Financial Times

Tony Gallagher, Editor, The Times

Ben Taylor, Editor, The Sunday Times

John Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief, Bloomberg

Ian Hislop, Editor, Private Eye

Alan Rusbridger, Editor, Prospect Magazine

Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist

Julian Richards, Managing Editor, openDemocracy

Oliver Duff, Editor-in-Chief, i

Rozina Breen, CEO, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ)

Drew Sullivan, Co-Founder, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)

Paul Radu, Co-Founder, OCCRP

Eliot Higgins, Founder, Bellingcat

James Harding, Founder & Editor, Tortoise

Franz Wild, Editor, TBIJ

Joanna Prior, CEO, Pan Macmillan

Arabella Pike, Publishing Director, HarperCollins UK

Dan Conway, CEO, Publishers Association

José Borghino, Secretary General, International Publishers Association

Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

Sayra Tekin, Director of Legal, News Media Association (NMA)

Dawn Alford, Executive Director, Society of Editors

Gill Phillips, Editorial Legal Consultant, Guardian News & Media

Pia Sarma, Editorial Legal Director, Times Newspapers Ltd

Adam Cannon, Director of Legal, NGN

Sarah Baxter, Director, Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting

Rachel Oldroyd, Deputy Investigations Editor, The Guardian

Juliette Garside, Deputy Business Editor, The Guardian

Stewart Kirkpatrick, Head of Impact, openDemocracy

Chrissie Giles, Deputy Editor, TBIJ

Richard Sambrook, Co-Chair of the Board, TBIJ

Isabel Hilton, Co-Chair of the Board, TBIJ

Mark Stephens CBE, Partner, Howard Kennedy LLP

Matthew Jury, Managing Partner, McCue Jury and Partners

Caroline Kean, Consultant Partner, Wiggin

David Price KC

Rupert Cowper-Coles, Partner, RPC

Paul Caruana Galizia, Reporter, Tortoise

Oliver Bullough, Journalist and author

Peter Geoghegan, Journalist and author

Carole Cadwalladr, Journalist, The Observer

Catherine Belton, Journalist and author of Putin’s People: How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the west

Richard Brooks, journalist, Private Eye

Meirion Jones, investigative journalist

Sean O’Neill, Senior Writer, The Times

George Greenwood, Investigations Reporter, The Times

Clare Rewcastle Brown, Investigative Journalist and Founder, The Sarawak Report

Nina Cresswell, Writer and journalist

Matthew Caruana Galizia, Director, The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Jodie Ginsberg, President, Committee to Protect Journalists

Alexander Papachristou, Executive Director, Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice

Zelda Perkins, Co-Founder, Can’t Buy My Silence campaign to ban the misuse of NDAs

Dr Julie Macfarlane, Co-Founder, Can’t Buy My Silence campaign to ban the misuse of NDAs

James Nixey, Director, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Edward Lucas, Author, European and transatlantic security consultant and fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)

John Heathershaw, Professor of International Relations, University of Exeter

Dr Tena Prelec, Research Associate, LSEE Research on SEE, LSE

Dr Peter Coe, Associate Professor in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham

Thomas Mayne, Research Fellow, University of Oxford