Members' Research Service By / October 3, 2022

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) [EU Legislation in Progress]

Media freedom and pluralism are part of the rights enshrined in the European Charter on Fundamental Rights (Article 11) and in the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 10 ECHR), together with freedom of expression and information.

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Written by Maria Diaz Crego and Micaela Del Monte (1st edition).

Over the years, techniques to limit freedom of expression have been refined, in innovative ways, often taking advantage of a legal void or grey zones between legal norms. One of these techniques is that of ‘SLAPPs’ (strategic lawsuits against public participation), a term coined by George Pring and Penelope Canan in the 1980s to indicate an abusive or meritless lawsuit filed against someone for exercising their political rights or freedom of expression in relation to matters of public interest. The purpose of SLAPPs is not to seek justice but to intimidate, silence and drain the financial and physical resources of the targeted victims. Ultimately, SLAPPs have a ‘chilling effect’ that goes beyond the individual case and undermines the building up of a healthy and pluralistic civic space in which citizens can actively participate. Although originally the SLAPPs phenomenon mainly affected activists, environmentalists and citizens who made themselves heard on matters of social relevance, today it affects all individuals who, in the name of public interest, denounce abuses of various kinds committed by both public and private actors.

On 27 April 2022, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a directive aimed at protecting persons who engage in public participation against manifestly unfounded or abusive civil court proceedings with cross-border implications, which is now being analysed by the co‑legislators. The proposal is accompanied by a recommendation to the Member States setting out guidance to address purely domestic cases of SLAPPs.


Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on protecting persons who engage in public participation from manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings (‘Strategic lawsuits against public participation’)
Committee responsible:Legal Affairs (JURI)COM(2022) 177 final
Rapporteur:Tiemo Wölken (S&D, Germany)2022/0117(COD)
Shadow rapporteurs:Magdalena Adamowicz (EPP, Poland)
Ilana Cicurel (Renew, France)
Marie Toussaint (Greens/EFA, France)
Jorge Buxadé Villalba (ECR, Spain)
Manon Aubry (The Left, France)
Ordinary legislative procedure (COD) (Parliament and Council on equal footing – formerly ‘co-decision’)
Next steps expected: Draft report

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