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Leading editors call on government to back anti-SLAPP measures

Posted on: November 29, 2022 by Claire Meadows

Leading editors, lawyers, journalists, publishers and free speech organisations have today come together to call on the UK Government to back meaningful anti-SLAPP protections to defend media freedom.

In a letter to Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, more than 70 leading editors and industry experts have called on the government to make good on its commitment to introduce robust anti-SLAPP measures and have pointed to the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s model law as a means of protecting those who hold power to account.

Signatories to the letter include the Society’s Executive Director Dawn Alford as well as senior editors from leading UK newspapers and media outlets including Paul Dacre, Editor-in-Chief of DMG media; Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian; Alison Phillips, Editor of The Mirror; Ted Verity, Editor of the Daily Mail; Chris Evans, Editor of The Telegraph; Tony Gallagher, Editor of The Times; Emma Tucker, Editor of The Sunday Times; Victoria Newton, Editor-in-Chief of The Sun; Roula Khalaf, Editor of the Financial Times; John Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg News and Alessandra Galloni, Editor-in-Chief of Reuters News Agency.

The letter states that events over the past year have shone a light on the use of abusive lawsuits and legal threats to shut down public interest speech and how currently “it is all too easy for such abusive legal tactics” to be used by the wealthy and powerful to shut down investigations and block accountability.

It adds: “The public interest reporting targeted by SLAPPs is vital for the health of democratic societies, including law enforcement’s ability to investigate wrongdoing promptly and effectively. This is of acute importance in the UK, which journalistic investigations have repeatedly shown to be a hub for illicit finance from kleptocratic elites.”

The letter points to the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s “oven-ready” model law which it says is a solution to the problem and has been drafted in consultation with leading media lawyers and industry experts. The model law includes key components that have previously been called for by the Society of Editors including an early dismissal and filter mechanism that empowers courts to swiftly dispose of SLAPPs as well as stiff penalties to deter their use and protective measures for SLAPP victims.

The letter to Justice Secretary Dominic Raab can be found  here with the model law available to view here.