Jessica Ní Mhainín: Fighting the laws that are silencing journalists
Slapps – or strategic lawsuits against public participation – are a type of legal action undertaken not to be won but to intimidate defendants into silence or inaction. A report by Index on Censorship calls for measures, including an anti-Slapp directive, to be put in place to protect journalists from vexatious legal threats and actions. At the time of her assassination in 2017, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was facing 47 civil and criminal defamation suits. After her death, about 30 of these were transferred to her family under a Maltese law that allows claimants to pursue actions against the heirs of a deceased defendant.
Caruana Galizia is among the most well-known targets in Europe. Slapps – an acronym for strategic lawsuits against public participation – are a type of legal action not undertaken to be won but to intimidate defendants into silence or inaction. They are most often used by powerful actors (corporations, public officials, high-profile businesspeople) in an attempt to stop individuals or organisations from expressing critical views on issues of public interest. They imperil not only independent journalism but academia, activism and other forms of civic engagement. And they seem to be becoming more common around the world….