European Parliament votes to curb abusive SLAPP lawsuits

Protest march © Vesnaandjic/Istockphoto.com

Nov 12, 2021

Progress has been made to protect activists against abusive lawsuits by companies and powerful individuals: 444 members of the European Parliament voted in favor of Europe-wide regulations to curb so-called SLAPP suits. It is now up to the European Commission to take action.

In the resolution, MEPs propose measures such as an EU directive to counter the threat to journalists, non-governmental organizations and civil society posed by "strategic lawsuits against public participation" (SLAPPs).

This would allow courts to throw out obviously abusive suits quickly and at an early stage. Plaintiffs could also face sanctions. There are also moves to stop "libel tourism", where plaintiffs file their lawsuits in the jurisdiction that is most convenient for them. Furthermore, the parliamentarians are calling for an EU fund to support the victims of SLAPPs and appropriate training for judges and lawyers.

German MEP Tiemo Wölken, who is co-rapporteur of the resolution, says: “We cannot stand by and watch as the rule of law is increasingly threatened, and the freedoms of expression, information and association are undermined. It is our duty to protect journalists, NGOs and civil society organizations reporting on matters of public interest. Our courts should never be a playground for rich and powerful individuals, companies or politicians, nor should they be overloaded or abused for personal gain.”

For the past two years, Rainforest Rescue has been defending itself against a lawsuit filed by Kenertec, a notorious Indonesian timber and palm oil company, before the Hamburg Regional Court. The suit is intended to silence our criticism of the company's wholesale destruction of rainforest for palm oil plantations in the province of Papua.

Rainforest Rescue has since been active in the European CASE alliance against intimidation lawsuits: In a joint petition, 97,790 people called on the European Commission to put better protection against SLAPPs in place. The petition was launched jointly by Rainforest Rescue, Umweltinstitut München (Munich Environmental Institute) – which was sued after it criticized the excessive use of pesticides on apple orchards – and the CASE alliance.

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