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Coalition welcomes UK Anti-SLAPP Bill

The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition, of which the News Media Association is a member, last week welcomed the Anti-SLAPP Bill presented to Parliament by MP Wayne David.

Coalition welcomes UK Anti-SLAPP Bill
Wayne David MP: “It is vital that in a healthy democracy there is protection for everyone who speaks out in the public interest.”

The News Media Association says SLAPPs, which stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, are a legal tactic used by wealthy individuals to intimidate and financially burden those who try to reveal corruption and wrongdoing. These lawsuits threaten the defendant with huge legal costs, making it difficult for them to defend themselves against the claim.

Russian oligarchs have been known to use SLAPPs as a means of silencing journalists. They often use false claims of defamation and invasion of privacy to prevent the publication of information that is in the public interest.

The Private Members’ Bill will aim to prevent SLAPPs from targeting public interest reporting and protect free speech by putting an end to these abusive legal threats.

The Coalition wrote: “With a general election expected next year the introduction of this standalone Bill is the start of an important process. If the Bill is bold and expansive enough to protect all forms of free expression, protect British courts against abuse and disincentivise further SLAPPs, the impact it can have cannot be overstated.”

Wayne David MP said: “It is vital that in a healthy democracy there is protection for everyone who speaks out in the public interest. Whether it is victims of sexual violence, journalists, whistleblowers or academics, there must be freedom for those who speak out. This Bill would ensure that there is that freedom in law. I look forward to working with members of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition and others to ensure that this Bill reaches the statute book.”

The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition co-chairs said: “We welcome the announcement of Wayne’s Private Members’ Bill today. While the devil will be in the detail, this is a significant step towards ensuring British courts cannot be abused to shut down public interest speech. As always, we will assess the Bill with reference to the standards we have established in our Model Anti-SLAPP Law. We call on all Parliamentarians, irrespective of party, to continue the already fruitful cross-party collaboration on this issue to ensure we can stamp out SLAPPs without delay.”

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