Anti-SLAPP Directive: On the 16th of April 2024, Directive (EU) No. 2024/1069 was implemented by the European Union and published in the Official Gazette.

This directive had been in the works since the directive was adopted by the European Parliament back in February of the same year. The aim of this directive is to protect “persons who engage in public participation from manifestly unfounded claims or abusive court proceedings” also known as ‘Strategic lawsuits against public participation’ (Herein after referred to as “SLAPP”).

This directive has also been dubbed as ‘Daphne’s Law’ as a tribute to the late Daphne Caruana Galizia who relentlessly advocated for the protection of journalists, academics, activists and other organizations and public watchdogs against abusive litigation across the EU, which inspired the Anti-SLAPP directive. Daphne herself had faced 48 abusive lawsuits at the time of her assassination which is a clear example of why such directive was needed.

EU Member States must amend their laws to conform with the minimum requirements set out by the Anti-SLAPP directive. The effect of the said directive is that people targeted by SLAPP proceedings will benefit from certain safeguards and measures which shall apply to such abusive proceedings as well as manifestly unfounded claims. Such measures shall have cross-border effects between the member states.

Defendants in SLAPP cases may, by virtue of this directive, request the court to dismiss a manifestly unfounded claim at the earliest time possible. In the event that the court deems that the proceedings were in fact abusive, it may order the claimant to bear the costs of proceedings as well as that of the legal representation of the SLAPP defendant. This does not limit any other forms of compensation such as damages suffered by the defendant if national law allows for it.

To determine whether a case has cross-border implications, the directive provides that should both parties to a SLAPP case are not domiciled in the same member state in which the court proceedings are taking place, then it shall be deemed to have said cross-border implications.

These implications also extend to countries outside the EU (third countries).

EU member states must refuse the recognition and not enforce a third-country judgement against an EU citizen if the member state in question deems it to be manifestly unfounded or abusive.

Directive (EU) 2024/1069 shall come into force on the 6th May 2024. Member States shall then have a window of 2 years to transpose said directive into their respective national legislation and uphold the new standards with regards to mitigating SLAPP procedures and protecting journalists, activist and other parties exercising their right of freedom of speech.

For more information or assistance please contact Dr Robert Tufigno and Dr Delilah Vella

Disclaimer This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.
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