To the Justice Minister Carlo Nordio,
The Italian anti-SLAPP working group, member of the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe - CASE, is writing to you to share our disappointment with the General Approach adopted by the Council of the European Union, on Friday 9 June 2023, on the European Commission’s proposed directive “on protection persons who engage in public participation from manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings (SLAPPs)”.
With this position, the Council takes a step back in the fight against the increasing use of manifestly unfounded and abusive court proceedings by significantly watering down key provisions in the original text.
In particular, the following major drawbacks fail to deliver an effective and adequate framework for journalists and media outlets:
(1) The removal of the European Commission’s definition of “cross-border” leaves out most SLAPPs from the scope of the directive. Research shows that roughly 90% of the SLAPP cases in Europe are brought in the same jurisdiction as where the target is domiciled.
(2) The very restrictive definition of "manifestly unfounded cases'' significantly weakens the text as a whole, specifically the key early dismissal mechanism, and lowers the protection available to the target. Moreover, the Council position fails to provide the target a guarantee expediency of early dismissal proceedings.
(3) The deletion of the provision for the compensation of damages for the harm suffered is another attempt to weaken the protection available to SLAPP targets.
These provisions fall far short of the legislation’s original objective, which is to protect journalists, human rights defenders, and ultimately the right to information in the European Union. It would result in excluding many cases from the legislation’s scope of application by simply making it harder to qualify for protection.
Journalists and media outlets in Europe are under a lot of pressure, and legal harassment is one of the most serious threats they face. It robs them of their time and money, undermining their work and infringing upon the public’s right to information.
We therefore ask you to convert public commitments to concrete action during the trilogue negotiations and make sure that the future legislation provides a meaningful framework for the exercise of journalism. Only a more ambitious text following the recommendations of prominent European legal experts will make a difference; otherwise it will be a missed opportunity.
We call on your Ministry to work towards legislation that will effectively protect journalists, human right defenders and other public participants from SLAPPs.
Italian anti-SLAPP working group:
Amnesty International Italia
The Good Lobby Italia
Defamation and Libel
This content is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.