The Malta Independent 7 December 2019, Saturday

European solution to SLAPP lawsuits ‘urgently needed’, says David casa

Thursday, 14 November 2019, 08:30 Last update: about 22 days ago

MEP David Casa has demanded a European level solution to the problem of SLAPP lawsuits, which have been leveraged in Malta with chilling results.

Casa said yesterday, “We have had to contend with the ridiculous situation of the Maltese government claiming that a solution must be found at EU level and the European Commission saying they could not find a legal basis and that action had to be taken by member states. This must end. A European solution is warranted, justified and necessary.”

Casa, a Quaestor of the European Parliament, was speaking during an expert talk at the European Parliament that he co-hosted.

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. It refers to lawsuits that deter and muzzle critics by weighing them down with the cost of a legal defence until they stop their criticism or opposition.

SLAPP lawsuits have been used in Malta against assassinated investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and more recently against The Shift News, Manuel Delia and other media houses. The Malta Independent and The Times of Malta have also been ‘SLAPPed’.

Casa, together with other MEPs, reiterated his commitment to finding EU solutions to address the harassment of journalists through these abusive practices.

Casa welcomed the legal expert analyses, presented by Dr Justin Borg-Barthet, that set out concrete measures that can be taken to address SLAPP practices including amending EU laws that deal with the choice of jurisdiction and the applicable law in defamation cases.

“We now have a concrete foundation on which we can base our work,” Casa said.

He observed how progress has been slow and called on the incoming Commission to step-up efforts in this area.

“The political will to find such solutions was lacking in the outgoing Commission. This Parliament remains committed to ending the harassment of journalists through these devious tactics. Hopefully, the new Commission will finally take the action that we have been calling for.

Casa said, “We must also look at the policies being enacted in jurisdictions outside the European Union. There are opportunities to understand best practices and replicate such practices here.  We must also be ready to call out abusive practices when we see them. Public outrage at the use of SLAPP can partially defeat their purpose.”

The event was co-hosted by David Casa together with MEPs Viola Von Cramon-Taubade (Greens/EFA) and Stelios Kouloglou (GUE/NGL). The event was organised by The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom together with Article 19, Media Legal Defence Initiative, European Federation of Journalists, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute, Committee to Protect Journalists, Free Press Unlimited, Global Witness, Greenpeace International, PEN International, The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucoso Transeuropa and Reporters Without Borders.

Speakers included Corinne Vella, representing the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Gil Philips from the Guardian as well as Dr Justin Borg-Barthet, Senior Lecturer at Aberdeen University.

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