Today the Council adopted a law to protect persons who speak out on matters of public interest against abusive lawsuits meant to silence them.

Persons targeted by so called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), typically journalists and human rights defenders, will benefit from a number of procedural safeguards and measures. These safeguards and measures will apply to manifestly unfounded claims or abusive court proceedings in civil matters with cross-border implications.

Procedural safeguards

Individuals targeted by SLAPP cases can ask the court to dismiss a manifestly unfounded claim at the earliest possible stage. If proceedings are found abusive, the court can decide that the claimant must bear the costs of the proceedings, including the costs of legal representation incurred by the SLAPP victim. To ensure that the defendant will be compensated, the court can also order the claimant to provide a financial security for the costs of the proceedings and, if provided by national law, the damages suffered by the defendant.

Courts must take the decision on the early dismissal of a case and on the provision of a financial security in an accelerated manner.

In order to discourage such abusive legal actions, the judge can also decide to subject the party who initiated the SLAPP case to penalties or other equally effective measures.

Cross-border implications and third-country judgments

According to the directive, a SLAPP case will be considered to have cross-border implications unless both parties are domiciled in the same member state as the court dealing with the matter and all other elements relevant to the situation concerned are located in that member state.

If a person living in the EU is targeted by a SLAPP case in a third-country, EU member states must refuse the recognition and enforcement of this third-country judgment if it is considered manifestly unfounded or abusive in the member state in question.

Other support measures

Member states have to put in place rules that would allow associations, organisations and trade unions to support the defendant or to provide information in the proceedings.

To further support SLAPP victims, member states will have to provide, in one single place, information on the procedural safeguards and remedies available to SLAPP victims.

Next steps

The directive will enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Member states have two years thereafter to transpose the law into national legislation.