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European Commission pressured by MEPs to protect media from 'abusive' high-cost lawsuits

A cross party group of six MEPs have asked the European Commission to introduce legislation protecting independent media against intimidating lawsuits that attempt to bully media into submission.

A SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is a suit filed with the intention of silencing a publisher by forcing it to pay legal costs too expensive for it to fight.

SLAPP plaintiffs often do not expect to win the lawsuits, aiming instead to intimidate and silence the publisher.

The MEPs (Members of the European Paliarment) have proposed a directive that would allow for the dismissal of unfair lawsuits and punish firms for trying to bully the media into submission.

It aims to create a fund for journalists and media houses to help fight off the lawsuits and to name and shame companies resorting to such tactics.

“SLAPPs are abusive, pose a threat to media freedom and has no place in the European Union,” the MEPs said in a joint statement.

“The cross-border nature of investigative journalism as well as the tendency to pursue legal action in jurisdictions outside the EU that only have a tenuous connection with the parties justifies and requires an EU response.”

The proposal received backing from press freedom groups Index on Censorship and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

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