BRUSSELS (AP) — The executive arm of the European Union said Wednesday it wants to see the EU pass legislation to protect journalists and civil rights activists from lawsuits aimed at censoring them.
The European Commission has proposed safeguards to curb SLAPPS, or strategic lawsuits against public participation. He described these disputes as a “serious threat to democracy and fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and information”.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist who was killed in a car bomb attack in 2017, faced more than 40 charges when she was killed, the commission said.
The proposed law would allow courts to dismiss cases early in the proceedings and would place the burden of proof on litigants “to prove that the case is not manifestly unfounded,” the commission said.
Prosecuting parties would bear all procedural costs, including defense attorneys’ fees, if a case is dismissed as abusive. Persons affected by the SLAPPs would also be eligible for compensatory damages.
“The anti-SLAPP directive proposed by the European Commission today is a major step forward in tackling the use of ‘gag suits’ to intimidate and silence journalists,” the freedom of journalists organization said. media Reporters Without Borders.
To enter into force, the proposal must be approved by EU member countries and by lawmakers in the European Parliament.
The directive covers SLAPPs in civil matters with cross-border implications since the EU is not empowered to legislate on strictly national matters. The committee recommends that member countries apply the proposed rules at national level.
According to the commission, 439 physical and judicial attacks against journalists and media workers took place in 24 EU countries last year.
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