Daphne's law

16 March 2022

“This new law should be named Daphne’s law” - Vice-President Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Values and Transparency

A new report released by the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) shows that SLAPPs are increasing across Europe, threatening free expression and the right to know. The report, “Shutting Out Criticism: How SLAPPs Threaten European Democracy”, authored by The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, is based on over 500 SLAPP cases from 29 European countries.

Referencing the European Commission’s upcoming anti-SLAPP initiative at the launch of the report, EU Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Values and Transparency said “This new law should be named Daphne’s law. [Her experience] helped me to convince many that we need to take action. Even several years after being murdered Daphne is still doing a lot for journalists in the EU.”

The CASE SLAPPs report shows that:

  • out of 30 countries in the study, Malta has the highest number of SLAPP cases per capita;
  • of all the cases documented in this study, Daphne Caruana Galizia was the most frequently targeted individual;
  • SLAPPs are a pan-European phenomenon that needs to be tackled regionally and coherently, addressing both domestic and cross-border cases;
  • the number of SLAPP cases across Europe is increasing year on year, with the highest number recorded in 2021, followed by 2020 and 2019;
  • SLAPP cases are filed in countries with strong democracies as well as those with critical rule of law concerns;
  • Among the countries featured in the study, the one with the highest number of SLAPP cases per capita is Malta;
  • SLAPPs affect multiple sectors ranging from the environment to education and anti-corruption advocacy;
  • the common factor in all SLAPP cases is the abuse of existing laws to intimidate and harass those who speak out and actively participate in the civic space - journalists, whistleblowers, activists, advocacy groups, academics, and other public watchdogs;
  • what distinguishes a SLAPP is that the plaintiff’s aim is to shut down the actions or words of their target.

The report’s analysis is based primarily on a dataset generously shared by the Amsterdam Law Clinics (ALCs) who, over several years, mapped cases that potentially amount to SLAPP suits in the European context. In their research, different groups of ALCs students identified common conditions that give rise to SLAPPs across Europe.

The ALCs are part of the Law Faculty at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Their primary mission is to provide law students with an opportunity to participate in real cases on legal questions in the public interest under the supervision of professionals and other academics of the Law Faculty at UvA.

Access the full report here.