MEPs call on European Commission to protect investigative journalists

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MEPs call on European Commission to protect investigative journalistsA number of MEPs have joined forces to to push for EU legislation that will address and end SLAPPs – a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

The MEPs are David Casa (EPP), Ana Gomes (S&D), Monica Macovei (ECR), Maite Pagazaurtundúa (ALDE) Stelios Kouloglou (GUE) and Benedek Jávor (Greens).

In a joint statement, they said that these lawsuits are intended “to intimidate and silence investigative journalists and independent media by burdening them with exorbitant legal expenses until they abandon their opposition.”

According to the MEPs, the practice is abusive, poses a threat to media freedom and has no place in the European Union.

The MEPs stated that “SLAPP was used, for instance, against investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and is now being used against Maltese media houses by firms associated with government corruption and the Panama Papers scandal that are threatening legal action in the United States.”

“In Malta we have seen that firms like Pilatus Bank and Henley & Partners that employ these practices, using American litigation, have succeeded in having stories altered or deleted completely from online archives. And investigative journalists are prevented from reporting further on corrupt practices out of fear of further legal action,” the MEPs said.

They added that, “this is not just a Maltese problem. In the UK, Appleby, the firm associated with the Paradise Papers, is using similar tactics against the Guardian and the BBC.”

“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,” said the MEP.

The MEPs are calling on EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans to propose an EU Anti-SLAPP Directive.

“We are committed to the protection of investigative journalists and media freedom across the EU and will pursue this issue until Anti-SLAPP EU legislation is in place,” the MEPs stated.

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