Talking "SLAPPs" and media freedom with Flutura Kusari | DW's international conference: Global Media Forum. | DW | 10.06.2024
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GMF

Talking "SLAPPs" and media freedom with Flutura Kusari

Flutura Kusari leads the legal support programme of the ECPMF which has supported hundreds of media workers across Europe. We speak to her ahead of her session at the DW Global Media Forum 2024.

Kusari will participate in the ECPMF (European Center for Press and Media Freedom) breakout session "Defending yourselves against SLAPPs: Everything you need to know" at this year's DW Global Media Forum. We caught up with her before the conference to get some insights into SLAPPs.

DW: SLAPPs have been in the news lately and many will be wondering what they are all about. In your role as legal adviser to the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, you deal with these issues on a daily basis. Could you briefly explain what SLAPPs are?

Kusari: Strategic lawsuits against public participation ("SLAPPs") are legal actions — threatened, initiated or pursued — that are intended to harass or intimidate targets (journalists, media outlets, environmentalists and public watchdogs). SLAPPs actively seek to prevent, restrict or penalize free expression on matters of public interest.

If a media outlet receives a SLAPP, how should it respond? And what can freelance colleagues do to protect themselves?

It is strongly recommended that media outlets and journalists seek pre-publication legal advice, especially before publishing complex investigations involving powerful people who are likely to engage in litigation. If, however, they do receive a SLAPP, I recommend taking legal advice. If media outlets or freelance journalists around Europe are unable to meet the legal fees, we at ECPMF can provide financial support. I can be reached directly at flutura.kusari@ecpmf.eu or legal@ecpmf.eu.

How can NGOs, legal experts and media organizations collaborate effectively — including at an international level — to combat SLAPPs and hold perpetrators accountable? 

The Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) is the largest and only European movement taking a stand against SLAPPs, bringing together some two hundred individuals, organizations and media. As a CASE co-founder, I am proud to say that we have taken on a significant role in Europe, coordinating all stakeholders in urging European governments and parliaments to implement the anti-SLAPP standards set down by the Council of Europe and the European Union. CASE also organizes an annual SLAPP contest: Those who engage in using SLAPPs against public watchdogs are called out and "awarded" with prizes such as SLAPP bully lawyer of the year, SLAPP country, etc.

What psychological support mechanisms do you recommend for journalists affected by SLAPPs?

I strongly advise journalists affected by SLAPPs to contact the ECPMF and CASE Coalition. At ECPMF we run The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom, including SLAPPs. MFRR provides legal and practical (including psychological) support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. Please get in touch and we will do our best to help.

What are your hopes for the future of media freedom and journalistic integrity, particularly regarding the elimination or reduction of SLAPP tactics?

In recent years, European institutions have passed many laws with the aim of further protecting media freedom, journalists and media workers. It is now time for such laws – especially the anti-SLAPP instruments created by the European Union and the Council of Europe – to be implemented at a national level across Europe. Civil society involvement is crucial if implementation is to be successful. There also needs to be greater, ongoing legal support for those targeted by SLAPPs, thus providing them with a proper defense. Finally, legal professionals such as judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and police officers need more training in how to deal with media freedom cases and SLAPPs. This is paramount when it comes to ensuring journalists and media outlets enjoy robust protection.

Find out more about the session Flutura Kusari is taking part in at the DW Global Media Forum 2024: dw.com/gmf