ARTICLE 19 welcomes the UK Government’s newly-announced measures to deal with strategic lawsuits against public participation, known as SLAPPs, which pose a significant risk to freedom of expression and media freedom.
Powerful people in business and politics have increasingly deployed SLAPPs against journalists reporting on and investigating matters in the public interest, often involving exorbitant fines designed to silence
On 20 July, the justice secretary Dominic Raab introduced a system aimed at assessing lawsuits to determine whether they have been lodged as a tool of intimidation against journalists or media organisations.
“It’s encouraging to see that the UK Government is taking mounting threats to free speech and investigative and independent journalism seriously,” said Quinn McKew, ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director. “Powerful politicians and business magnates are using SLAPPs to harass, intimidate and silence journalists, so ARTICLE 19 welcomes moves to strengthen courts’ powers to dismiss these claims. Putting measures in place to protect journalism in the public interest is an important step towards protecting freedom of expression and democratic values at a time when these fundamental rights are under threat.”
SLAPPs have been on rise in recent years, and growing numbers of law firms have developed aggressive tactics as part of their cases for wealthy clients.
The free expression and human rights community has repeatedly voiced alarm about the rise of the use of SLAPPs, which routinely call for six-figure settlement costs. ARTICLE 19 and other organisations have called for the UK Government to introduce comprehensive anti-SLAPP measures in the country.
For more information about ARTICLE 19’s anti-SLAPP advocacy, the threats journalists face and why they must be protected, read our joint report with partner organisations and follow ARTICLE 19 Europe on Twitter.
Coming soon: The first anti-SLAPP conference and powerful testimonies from targeted journalists.
The United Kingdom ranked 35 out of 161 countries in the 2022 Global Expression Report – ARTICLE 19’s annual look at the right to free expression and information across the world.