CJA: SLAPP Lawsuits are Form of Journalist Abuse with Dire Consequences

January 31, 2023 - The problem of SLAPP lawsuits is an extremely important topic because they represent the latest form of abuse and attacks on journalists, according to the president of the Croatian Journalists' Association (CJA), Hrvoje Zovko. 

Something that Paul Bradbury has experienced himself, anyway.

As Index writes, speaking on the panel on the legal foundations and challenges in regulating SLAPP - strategic lawsuits against public participation, Zovko pointed out that CJA has been collecting data on the total number of lawsuits against media and journalists for damage to reputation and honour for years.

They are asking for almost HRK 77.5 million from journalists

According to the latest survey results from March last year, at least 951 lawsuits for damage to reputation and honour against the media and journalists were active in Croatia, from which the prosecutors claimed almost HRK 77.5 million.

"This is a very important topic for us and concerns all our members because SLAPP lawsuits are a new form of abuse and attacks on journalists," said Zovko.

The president of the European Federation of Journalists and the Union of Croatian Journalists, Maja Sever, emphasized that the fight against SLAPP lawsuits requires the joint action of professional journalistic organizations, legal experts, and judges.

"This is a joint fight. Unfortunately, the consequences of SLAPP lawsuits on any individual journalist are dire. "Most of our colleagues say that every attack, online harassment (abuse) is nothing compared to the fear of targeted SLAPP lawsuits," said Sever.

Lawyers specializing in media law and freedom of expression and members of the European Commission's expert group for SLAPP lawsuits, Vanja Jurić and Vesna Alaburić, emphasized the extreme importance of education for lawyers and journalists but also judges in the fight against SLAPP lawsuits.

They also assessed that a prerequisite for the successful application of European practices is an excellent knowledge of court practice, even to determine the groundlessness of SLAPP lawsuits, but they also called for caution in defining them.

"The goal of SLAPP lawsuits is not to win a dispute."

Alaburić pointed out that the goal of SLAPP lawsuits is usually not to win the dispute but to discourage journalists or the activities of civil society organizations that raise some sensitive topics.

Constitutional Court Judge Goran Selanec and Professor Dunja Duić took part in the discussion, as well as numerous journalists, including Drago Hedl and Ivan Pandžić, who offered their views on SLAPP lawsuits.

The panel is part of the project "Informed citizens monitor the prevention of future violations of human rights and the work of the Croatian Representative's Office before the European Court of Human Rights," supported through the Fund for Active Citizenship with money from Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway within the framework of EEA grants.

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