The UK government has announced new legislation to prevent large corporations and wealthy individuals from hindering investigative journalism and free speech using so-called SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) claims.
Under the proposed amendments to the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, judges will be given new powers to dismiss claims deemed to have been brought solely with the purpose of evading scrutiny and stifling freedom of speech.
In a statement today unveiling the new measures, the Ministry of Justice says SLAPP cases are currently being used to intimidate and financially exhaust opponents and to threaten them with extreme costs for defending a claim. These claims are often brought on bogus defamation and privacy grounds that prevent the publication of information in the public interest.
The amended Bill defines SLAPP cases in law and brings in additional protections in law for free speech and investigative journalism by bolstering judges’ powers to throw out such claims.
The statement goes on to say that “at least 70% of the cases referenced in a report about SLAPPs, published in April 2022 by the Foreign Policy Centre and ARTICLE 19, were connected to financial crime and corruption… The amendments show the government is taking a leading role in cracking down on the abuse of the legal system by wealthy elites.”