Anti-SLAPP coalition launched to assist public watchdogs struggling with legal attacks

The initiative seeks to map out legal services and pro bono lawyers available across Europe

CASE, a pan-European anti-SLAPP coalition, has launched a new initiative to support public watchdogs facing SLAPP lawsuits.

On Friday, the coalition launched a new website mapping out a network of lawyers and legal services available to assist those affected by SLAPPs. It will seek to amplify the voices of SLAPP victims and raise awareness on individual cases of SLAPP. 

During the launch, Andrew Caruana Galizia spoke about his mother's struggles with legal attacks, and pointed out that 95% of the 47 libel cases against her were filed in the last year of her life.

"[Daphne Caruana Galizia] always had a stoic approach to libel cases - she had learnt how to tackle them, she knew her way around the court, and she had lawyers she trusted. But the financial burden in the last year of her life became unbearable," he said. 

Caruana Galizia recalled that Daphne felt particularly worried over these libel cases in the last two weeks of her life, and mentioned how she had been sued for $45 million in an Arizona court.

"If she wasn't assassinated, she would have been crushed financially," he admitted.

The Caruana Galizia family are still facing 24 libel cases in court, with potential damages amounting to hundreds of thousands of euro. Andrew Caruana Galizia said that the greatest source of surprise after his mother's death was that posthumous libel cases were allowed in the first place. 

Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, addressed members of the press during the launch event and detailed efforts against SLAPP at the EU level. 

"Corruption scandals and political hypocrisy come to see the light of day because journalists take risks," she said. "Journalists and media need to be protected so that they could fulfill their duty."

Jourová explained that the Commission is looking to draft an initiative of a non-legislative nature to protect people from SLAPP. Officials are mapping the situation to form the legal basis of the initiative. 

However, she admitted that there is little the Commission can do from a legislative angle, and will have to focus on positive and negative incentives. 

"As for infringement procedures, we can't do much because media matters aren't covered by EU legislation. But we can and should impose political pressure, as through the rule of law report and media pluralism monitor."