Read below the statement by MEP Irena Joveva (RE/LMŠ) on the draft anti-SLAPP Directive and on the triggering of the Rule of Law mechanism against the Hungarian Government:

“In line with the announcements made by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the April plenary session of the European Parliament, the College of Commissioners today also formally endorsed the initiation of the formal procedure to activate against Hungary the general regime of conditionality due to breaches of the principle of the rule of law and the misuse of EU funds. But the actual triggering of the freezing of funds must also be approved by a qualified majority of the Member States’ Heads of Government in the Council. Still, the much-anticipated sanctions that the European Parliament has been calling for since the beginning of 2021, when the mechanism formally entered into force, will not cover everything we would have liked. The sanctions will focus solely on corruption and the associated problematic use of European funds through public tenders, where Viktor Orban – at the expense of public freedoms and the complete subjugation of democratic institutions – channelled European funds to his friends and family. The fight against corruption is certainly of paramount importance, but equally important is the protection of the rule of law, human rights and the independence of the judiciary, and it is unacceptable that these will not be covered by the sanctions announced. We shall insist that the European Commission should not approve the national recovery and resilience plans of Hungary and Poland until the independence of the judiciary, media freedom and the independence of regulatory agencies are ensured in those two countries. Unless EU values are adhered to, there can be no disbursement of EU funds.

In the same vein, I welcome the proposal for the so-called anti-SLAPP Directive, binding Union-wide legislation against strategic lawsuits lodged to block public participation. The directive will systematically protect journalists, civil society and non-governmental organisations from the abuse of legal remedies by actors seeking to silence critics in this way. I am pleased that the European Commission’s proposal incorporates all the main points the European Parliament has called for in its resolution, which I had the privilege of co-shaping as a member of the negotiating group working under the remit of the Committee on Culture. The most important element of the directive will be a legal mechanism allowing the courts to expeditiously dismiss cases that clearly qualify as SLAPP suits. I also welcome the provisions that, in the case of blatant abuse of a judicial remedy by lodging a SLAPP suit, the costs of the trial should be borne by the claimant. In the next steps, the European Parliament intends to tighten up the directive and extend some of its provisions. What I would wish, in particular, is to see a radical restriction on so-called ‘forum shopping’, through which claimants exert even more psychological and financial pressure on their critics. A necessary next step would be to make recommendations for Member States, such as provisions concerning data collection on SLAPP cases, training of judges and additional safeguards, binding already within the directive. It should not be forgotten that there are also SLAPP cases in Slovenia, and that they are used by the outgoing Prime Minister’s cronies as an attempt to silence critical journalists. Slovenia should treat defamation as a criminal offence in line with EU standards. It is high time that we ceased turning the other cheek to SLAP(P)s in investigative journalism and in the EU’s legal system.”

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.