Free speech NGOs have filed recommendations today on action the EU can take to reduce the risk of SLAPP suits against journalists working in the European Union. The recommendations are backed up by legal advice prepared by Maltese lawyer Justin Borg Barthet who lectures in the University of Aberdeen.
The NGOs recommended a change to the EU regulation to define the jurisdiction of a defamation suit as the place where the defending journalist lives. Such an amendment would have forced, by way of example, Christo Georgiev, owner of Satabank, to sue this website in Malta rather than in Bulgaria which he chose to do. The NGOs say such a change “would remove the facility for pursuers to abuse their ability to choose a court or courts which have little connection to the dispute.”
The NGOs also recommended that journalists should be expected to comply with the defamation laws in the country where their writings will be mostly published. In the Satabank law suit example, since this website is written in Malta and mostly for a Maltese audience, Maltese law should have applied. That would have made the complaint inadmissible as Malta’s law requires a complaint to be filed within a year from publication. Bulgarian law does not have the same limit.
The free speech NGOs including the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom recommended procedural safeguards and financial aid to support victims of SLAPP in the EU.
The NGOs’ recommendations and the advice penned by Justin Borg Barthet can be downloaded here.