Gagging lawsuits. EU awakens member states with a Directive
New rules dedicated to Daphne Caruana Galizia – Commissioner Jourová recommends the use of the civil code to regulate defamation
BRUSSELS, APRIL 27th 2022 – Stop the abuse of manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings against journalists and civil rights defenders. This is the objective of the proposals – contained in a directive and a recommendation – presented today by the European Commission. Based on the provisions of the directive, courts may, inter alia, impose ‘dissuasive penalties’ on those who take manifestly instrumental, unfounded action aimed only at silencing those who, in the context of their professional activity, denounce abuses, cases of corruption and human rights violations. “We promised to better defend journalists and human rights advocates from those who try to silence them and now we have done so,” said Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission. “In a democracy – she added – wealth and power cannot give anyone the right to override the truth”.
“The EU – added justice commissioner Didier Reynders – will endeavour to always protect the right to freedom of expression and information “. The proposals presented today are “important steps to safeguard journalists and civil society from growing threats of vexatious practices” aimed at silencing them. To protect the victims of Slapps – the acronym adopted by the Commission to indicate strategies based on legal attacks to silence them – the proposed directive gives the possibility to judges to declare a non-suit judgement in the case of a manifestly unfounded complaint filed and, in this case, to impose on the plaintiff the payment of all expenses. Slapp victims will have also the right to request and obtain full compensation for material and moral damage suffered. Furthermore, EU countries will have the right not to recognize sentences issued by third countries against persons domiciled in the EU and sentenced on the basis of court proceedings deemed unfounded. Before becoming law, the directive will have to be approved by the Council and the Parliament. (ANSA).
Jourová (EU), non-criminal civil law should apply to the media
‘Today an unprecedented initiative also in honour of Daphne Caruana Galizia’
BRUSSELS, APRIL 27th – “We recommend that member countries deal with issues relating to offences in the print media, in the context of civil or administrative law and no longer in the penal one. I believe that the intervention tools are however sufficient “. The vice president of the EU Commission Věra Jourová during the press conference on EU proposals to protect journalists and defenders of human rights from the growing phenomenon of intimidation strategies conducted through lawsuits and other legal actions. Jourova also pointed out how the one presented today is both an “unprecedented initiative” and also a “due act” in memory of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist killed due to her investigations into corruption in her country. (ANSA).
Council of Europe, threats to press freedom up41% in 2021
Journalist protection platform reports 11 cases in Italy
(ANSA) – STRASBOURG, APRIL 27th – Threats to press freedom on the European continent – which include the murder of reporters, physical and verbal attacks and lawsuits, as well as laws that reduce their opportunities to work, and the independence of the media – increased by 41% in 2021 compared to the previous year. The data comes from the annual report compiled by 15 associations, including the European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, who manage the Council of Europe’s platform for the protection of journalists. Last year in Europe six journalists died in the exercise of their profession – 3 of them were murdered. The report indicates that “Journalists are also more and more subject to physical attacks which increased by 51% over the 2021”. Many of these attacks occurred during demonstrations or protests against the measures taken for Covid and show, the report states, “how much covering these events has become dangerous for journalists”. The platform includes the physical attacks and the threats to which numerous Italian journalists have been subject especially during the protests against the EU Digital Covid Certificate. Another alarming data regards “threats attributed to the State or to its officials”, which concern 47% of the cases reported on the platform in 2021. This category includes the law introduced in Greece against “fake news”, but also the charges for defamation and insult to a magistrate in a hearing brought in Italy against the journalists Lorenzo Tondo and Kelly Duda by two prosecutors; or the order from the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio to the ‘Report’ TV programme to reveal the sources used for the episode “Vassalli, valvassori, valvassini” on the management of public funds in Lombardy broadcast on October 26th 2020. (ANSA).
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