Over 60 editors, journalists, writers, publishers and experts call on the UK Government to commit to a standalone anti-SLAPP law

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

UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition welcomes end of Realtid case

In January 2023, Swedish business and finance publication Realtid confirmed that they had reached a settlement with businessman Svante Kumlin over a legal action Kumlin had taken as a result of articles published in late 2020. Under the terms of the settlement, while Kumlin will pay part of Realtid’s legal fees, Realtid is obliged to share a clarification and apology on its website on three of its articles about Kumlin and his company Eco Energy World (EEW).

The settlement comes more than two years after the legal action against Realtid and their journalists was initiated, and seven months after a judge ruled that the courts of England and Wales did not have jurisdiction over ten of the thirteen defamation claims EEW and Kumlin had initially brought.

Dozens of human rights and media freedom organisations had repeatedly expressed solidarity with Realtid due to the case having been deemed a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) from the outset. SLAPPs seek to put pressure on public watchdogs by draining them of time, money, and energy in a bid to silence them.

“Overall, we welcome the fact that Realtid’s SLAPP has come to an end and that their articles will remain online in an unamended format,” the organisations said. “Nonetheless, Realtid and their journalists have paid dearly to defend their public interest reporting, not only financially, but in time and energy also. They will never be made whole.”

“We believe that, once again, this case emphasises the urgent need for concrete action to be taken, including the enactment of robust anti-SLAPP legislation in the UK. It is difficult to imagine a case like this getting this far if more robust protections were in place,” the organisations said. “We need to ensure that public watchdogs are empowered to carry out their work, which is so crucial to our democracy.”


Index on Censorship

RSF Sweden

Justice for Journalists Foundation 


Blueprint for Free Speech

Society of Authors

National Union of Journalists

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

International Press Institute (IPI)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Global Witness

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)

Media Law Resource Center

Xnet, Spain

Spotlight on Corruption

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Association Justice and Environment, z.s.

Swedish Union of Journalists

PEN International 

English PEN

UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition reiterates its support for Carole Cadwalladr

The undersigned organisations reiterate their support for journalist Carole Cadwalladr as the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in the case taken against her by millionaire businessman and political donor Arron Banks. Banks’ legal action related to two publications in which Cadwalladr had said the businessman was lying about his relationship with the Russian state – one in a TED Talk and one in a tweet.

Last June, Banks lost the libel action against Cadwalladr. At the time, the judge ruled that Cadwalladr had successfully established a public interest defence for the TED Talk, which was the only of the two publications to have reached the threshold for serious harm. While the judge found that Cadwalladr’s public interest defence was no longer applicable after the Electoral Commission exonerated Banks (in April 2020), she did not believe that the continued publication of the TED Talk could cause serious harm to his reputation. In his appeal, Banks argued that the judge should have found that both the TED Talk and the Tweet did seriously harm his reputation after April 2020. 

Yesterday the Court of Appeal upheld Banks’ argument that the continued publication of the TED Talk had the potential to harm his reputation, but it dismissed two other grounds of his appeal, upholding the initial decision to dismiss the claim in respect of the Tweet. Although the court acknowledged that Cadwalladr does not have control over TED’s publications, she will nonetheless be liable for the damages arising from the publication of the TED Talk after April 2020. 

“We are pleased that the judge dismissed the majority of the appeal against Cadwalladr,” the members of the UK Anti-SLAPPs Coalition said. “We have long categorised this case as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), aimed at intimidating and silencing Cadwalladr.” SLAPPs abuse the law in order to intimidate and silence public watchdogs from speaking out on matters of public interest. 

Last year, the co-chairs of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition rebutted Mrs Justice Steyn’s assertion that the case against Cadwalladr was not a SLAPP, highlighting the fact that Banks could have taken action against The Observer or TED instead of her. “In compounding the power imbalance between him and the defendant, [Banks’] decision to take legal action against [Cadwalladr] as an individual adds weight to the categorisation of the case as a SLAPP,” they wrote.

“Last July, the government set out a package of measures aimed at tackling SLAPPs, but it appears that limited – if any – progress has been made at enacting those measures since then,” the organisations concluded. “We once again call on the government to step up. Our democracy relies on the ability of public watchdogs to hold power to account.”


Index on Censorship

Justice for Journalists Foundation

Whistleblowing International Network 


National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

Public Interest News Foundation


English PEN

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Committee to Protect Journalists


Spotlight on Corruption

PEN International

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

SLAPPS: A Threat to Our Freedom of Expression and Our Democracy

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”120663″ img_size=”full” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/slapps-a-threat-to-our-freedom-of-expression-and-our-democracy-tickets-558832341577″][vc_column_text]

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are brought by powerful and wealthy entities against public watchdogs in an effort to compel them to withhold or remove critical coverage, even if it is accurate and in the public interest.

When SLAPPs successfully drive information out of the public domain, they can make it difficult to hold power to account. SLAPPs threaten not only our freedom of information, but our human rights, our rule of law, and our democracies. The use of this tactic to undermine criticism and evade scrutiny has proliferated globally but Ireland has been identified as a jurisdiction of concern in the EU.

How do SLAPPs work and, crucially, what can we do to stop them? At this full-day conference, attendees will hear from lawyers, journalists, academics, politicians, and campaigners, as well as from keynote speakers, UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor, and human rights campaigner Bill Browder. Full schedule to be announced in due course.

This event is organised by Index on Censorship with support from Justice for Journalists Foundation and in partnership with Schuler Democracy Forum in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute and Trinity School of Law. The conference will take place in a hybrid format, accessible both via an online livestream and in-person. To get updates on speakers and sessions, please subscribe to Index on Censorship’s newsletter.


When: Thursday 23 March 2023, 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM GMT

Where: Trinity Long Room Hub, Fellow Square, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland

Tickets: Book in-person and online livestream tickets here