Anti-SLAPP Conference

Countering Legal threats
against Media Freedom

22-23 November 2021
In London and Online

#SLAPPS21

ABOUT THE EVENT 

The Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ) and the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) would like to thank you for joining us for the UK’s first Anti-SLAPP Conference. 

Journalists around the world are facing a significant, yet often hidden, challenge to their role as public watchdogs. The use of vexatious legal threats, often referred to as Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPP), have proliferated globally in recent years. They are brought by the powerful and wealthy, eager to avoid scrutiny, to intimidate journalists into either not publishing or removing information from the public domain.

This two-day conference brought together experts from across the globe to delve into SLAPPs and examine the impact it has on journalists, media freedom and wider society. It also specifically looked at the dual role the UK plays both as a promoter of media freedom through its Global Campaign and as a leading international source of vexatious threats against journalists (as underscored by the findings of FPC’s 2020 Unsafe for Scrutiny survey).

LIVE STREAM

DAY 2

DAY 1

ORGANISERS​

Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ) is a London-based non-governmental organization. Our mission is to facilitate journalists’ access to existing resources and make them relevant to the specifics of each region. We believe security is the essential basis for work in the media. We help journalists acquire the skills and knowledge to address their professional challenges.

The Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) is an outward-looking, non-partisan international affairs think tank based in the UK. Our mission is to provide an open and accessible space for the ideas, knowledge and experience of experts, academics and activists from across the world, so that their voices can be heard by a global audience of citizens and decision makers in order to find solutions to today’s international challenges.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATIONS

WHAT IS SLAPP?

For more information see our section on SLAPP Resources

 

Get involved with initiatives to push back against legal intimidation and SLAPP in the UK! As launched at the Anti-SLAPP conference 2021, the UK Anti-SLAPP working group has developed proposals for reform to counter legal intimidation and SLAPP in the UK. We would welcome your feedback into the proposals by 31 December 2021.

See the full text of the UK working group proposals here.

Please submit your feedback here.

PROGRAMME

DAY ONE

09.30 - 09.45

Arrival at venue for those attending in person

09.45 - 10.00

Welcome to the conference (15 minutes)

Welcome and aims of the conference by Maria Ordzhonikidze, JFJ Director

Director, Justice for Journalists Foundation

10.00 - 10.20

Opening Keynote: Why countering legal intimidation and SLAPP matters (20 minutes)

Member of House of Lords of the United Kingdom, leading barrister and an expert in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues

10.20 - 10.30

Short Break (10 minutes)

PANEL 1

10.30 - 11.45

The rise of SLAPPs  and efforts to counter them

This session will explore the history of SLAPP, its rising usage by actors around the world keen to shut down discussions of public interest, as well as civil society efforts, particularly in the US, Europe and UK, to push back against it. While SLAPPs are targeted against a wide range of public interest actors the focus of this discussion will be on how they have been utilised against journalists and media outlets, the challenges encountered by civil society when researching and documenting cases as well as providing practical support.

Chair:

Journalist and commentator

Speakers:

Legal Advisor, Greenpeace and UK campaigns advisor, English PEN

Legal Advisor, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Policy and campaigns manager, Index on Censorship

Legal Researcher, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

11.45 - 12.00

Short Break (10 minutes)

PANEL 2

12.00 - 13.15

SLAPPed – a Global Phenomenon: Poland, Slovenia, Cyprus, India and Australia

SLAPPs are a global phenomenon and there are examples of legal action being taken against media across the world. This first global session will highlight the experiences of journalists and media outlets in jurisdictions as diverse as Poland, Cyprus, Slovenia, India and Australia. As well as exploring the commonalities and differences of how SLAPPs are deployed, panellists will also touch upon what initiatives, if any exist, at a governmental, or intern-governmental in the case of EU countries, level to support journalists and media and prevent the vexatious use of SLAPP.

Chair:

Head of Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19

Speakers:

Public Policy and Market Officer at Agora, publisher of Gazeta Wyborckza, Poland

Investigative journalist, OCCRP, Cyprus

ABC journalist and author of Fair Game, Australia

Journalist and researcher, co-author of Sue the Messenger, India

Slovenian journalist, Necenzurirano.si, Slovenia

13.15 - 14.15

Lunch Break (60 minutes)

PANEL 3

14.15 - 15.30

SLAPPed – a Global Phenomenon: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and the US

SLAPPs are a global phenomenon and there are examples of legal action being taken against media across the world. This second global session will highlight the experiences of journalists and media outlets in Latin America and the US. As well as exploring the commonalities and the differences of how SLAPPs are deployed in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and US, panellists what panellists will also touch upon what initiatives, if any exist, at a governmental, level to support journalists and media and prevent the vexatious use of SLAPP.

Chair:

Senior Legal Officer, Media Defence

Speakers:

Writer and filmmaker

Coordinator, FLIP, Center of Studies on Freedom of Expression

Protection Coordinator, ARTICLE 19 Mexico

Founding Partner, Candide Group

15.30 - 15.45

Short break (15 minutes)

PANEL 4

15.45 - 17.00

London Calling: Why is England the ‘ideal’ SLAPP jurisdiction?

Growing evidence points to the UK, and particularly England, as an especially favourable jurisdiction for SLAPP. Several cases currently going through the London courts, against journalists and media both based in the UK and abroad, have raised the profile of this issue and provoked questions as to whether the reforms brought in under the 2013 Defamation Act (England and Wales) were sufficient to prevent vexatious misuse and libel tourism. There are also indications of a larger ‘hidden problem’ of UK law firms sending threatening legal communication prior to any official filings, which can have a similar effect to SLAPPs. This session will examine potential SLAPP cases linked with the UK, as well as how UK laws can be utilised for legal intimidation.

Chair:

Editor-in-chief at openDemocracy and author of Democracy For Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics

Speakers:

Investigative journalist, Realtid

Director of Editorial Legal Services, Guardian News & Media Limited

Executive Director, The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice

Project Director, Foreign Policy Centre

17.00 - 18.00

DRINKS RECEPTION

EVENING
EVENT

18.00 - 19.30

When corruption and censorship collide – what happens when investigative journalists face legal intimidation?

Join Edward Lucas in conversation with investigative journalists Clare Rewcastle Brown and Paul Radu as they discuss their experiences of being sued in the London Courts as a result of investigations into financial crime and corruption, as well as the wider challenges for journalists facing legal threats, especially when emanating from the UK. For further details and to register just for this evening event click here.

Chair:

Author, European and transatlantic security consultant and fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)​

Speakers:

Investigative journalist and founder of the Sarawak Report, Radio Free Sarawak​

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, OCCRP ​

DAY TWO

09.30 - 09.45

Arrival at venue for those attending in person

09.45 - 10.00

Welcome to Day Two (15 minutes)

Short summary of Day One and Introduction to Day Two by Susan Coughtrie, Foreign Policy Centre 

Project Director, Foreign Policy Centre

10.00 - 10.20

Keynote: Legal responses to SLAPPs – using the common law to SLAPP back (20 minutes)

High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom

10.20 - 10.30

Short Break (10 minutes)

PANEL 5

10.30 - 11.45

‘Not for Publication’: How lawyers and reputation managers enable legal intimidation and SLAPPs 

Most legal challenges against media start with letters usually marked ‘private and confidential’ and ‘not for publication’ sent by law firms and reputation management companies. These are sometimes sent pre-publication in response to requests for information or a ‘right to reply’ from a journalist to the person or company they are investigating or afterwards in an attempt to get information amended or taken down. This session will examine how this process works, how lawyers and reputation managers are sometimes seen as ‘enablers’ in removal of information that is in the public interest and what can be done to push back against vexatious legal threats that have a similar impact to SLAPPs, but might never turn into a formal legal action.

Chair:

Journalist and author of Moneyland

Speakers:

Maltese blogger and freelance journalist

Advocacy Coordinator, amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism

Finance Editor, Lead on the Enablers Project, The Bureau of Investigative Journalists

Chief Executive, Society of Authors

11.45 - 12.00

Short Break (10 minutes)

PANEL 6

12.00 - 13.15

SLAPPs as a ‘lawfare’ strategy against investigations into corruption and ‘dirty money’ flows

Cases of legal intimidation and SLAPPs brought against the media are often linked with journalistic investigations into financial crime and corruption. This session will examine the legal challenges that journalists, sometimes together with whistleblowers, can face when trying to expose corruption and illicit money flows. Removal of information about those accused of wrong-doing, as a result of legal challenges, can impact due diligence and anti-money laundering processes, making it harder for law enforcement to gather information and leads. This discussion will also touch upon examples of similar ‘lawfare’ tactics being utilised against official bodies and regulators.

Chair:

Investigations Lead, Transparency International ​

Speakers:

Director, PPLAAF

Executive Director, RAID

Lawyer and co-founder of the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), Turkey

Investigative Reporter, The Financial Times and author of Kleptopia

13.15 - 14.15

Lunch Break (60 minutes)

PANEL 7

14.15 - 15.30

SLAPPed, what next? The impact of legal challenges on individuals and society, and steps to counter them

The impact of SLAPPs can be devastating, both in terms of the individual journalist or media outlet subject to them, as well as the wider repercussions for society. SLAPP victims can face financial challenges, have valuable time taken away from their work, and place a huge burden on their mental wellbeing. Moreover, by preventing the journalist or media outlet from publishing or forcing them to redact information, SLAPPs can have a ripple effect, impacting societies right to know and preventing or delaying the redress of wrongdoings. This session will explore these issues as well as discuss what steps journalists and others subject to SLAPPs can take when faced with legal challenges.

Chair:

Director of International Campaigns and UK Bureau Director, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Speakers:

Director, Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Investigative reporter, Buzzfeed News

Acting editor, Index on Censorship

Legal Advisor, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)​

15.30 - 15.45

Short break (15 minutes)

PANEL 8

15.45 - 17.00

What should the UK do to address legal intimidation and SLAPPs?

This panel will discuss what the UK can and should do to address the issue of SLAPPs domestically as well as internationally. It will discuss potential regulatory and legislative measures, which could also take the form of a UK anti-SLAPP law, as proposed by the UK anti-SLAPP coalition, as well as steps the UK Government could take to promote anti-SLAPP initiatives around the world as a leader of the Global Media Freedom Campaign.

Chair:

Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight ​

Speakers:

Legal Advisor, Greenpeace and UK campaigns advisor, English PEN

Policy and campaigns manager, Index on Censorship

Media lawyer (previously in-house media lawyer at ITN)

English-qualified litigator specialising in media defence and partner at the law firm RPC

17.00 - 17.10

CLOSE OF CONFERENCE