Society joins new taskforce set up to tackle SLAPPs

Posted on: September 13, 2023 by Claire Meadows

The Society of Editors has this week joined the inaugural meeting of a new government taskforce set up to tackle Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).

The new taskforce, announced this week with the first meeting attended by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer MP, will look at non-legislative means of combatting SLAPPs and will build on already-announced protections which have been added to the Economic Crime Bill which is currently going through parliament.

Welcoming the implementation of the taskforce, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “The formation of this taskforce is a significant and welcome step in looking at what more can be done to put an end to the abuse of the legal process which, for too long, has allowed the rich and powerful to seek to silence and intimidate journalists, academics and authors.

“Alongside the need for broader legislative measures to tackle SLAPPs we look forward to working within the taskforce to address how regulatory reform as well as awareness-raising amongst judges and the wider legal profession can drive forward much-needed protections in this area”.

The taskforce is expected to commission research to investigate the prevalence of SLAPPs used against journalists. It will also explore how legal services regulation could be used to prevent or mitigate SLAPPs, draw up plans for new specialist training for judges and law professionals to help them identify and throw out SLAPPs more easily, and develop guidance to support journalists, publications or law professionals.

The new taskforce will report regularly on progress to clamp down on SLAPPs to the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, which the Society is also a member of, at its bi-monthly meetings. The Committee, set up by the government, brings together representatives from government, journalism, policing, prosecution services and civil society to work in collaboration.