EU Mulling SLAPP Crackdown After Russian Oligarchs Try to Silence Journalists

UK Justice Minister Dominic Raab has raised concerns over Russian Oligarchs using Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) to silence journalists.

The UK Ministry of Justice announced that they plan to crack down on legal warfare against the press after High Court this month dismissed a libel claim against the British journalist, Tom Burgis, that was filed by a Kazakh-owned mining firm owned by oligarchs, Alexander Machkevitch, Patokh Chodiev, and Alijan Ibragimov. 

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has also reportedly filed a case last year over passages in the book Putin’s People, written by Catherine Belton alleging that he bought Chelsea football club at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behest.

“The Government will not tolerate Russian oligarchs and other corrupt elites abusing British courts to muzzle those who shine a light on their wrongdoing,” said Raab.

Raab announced that they have prepared several proposals including the amendment of the Defamation Act 2013 and capping the costs that claimants can recover to prevent oligarchs or powerful men from ‘weaponizing’ litigation against journalists and watchdogs.

“The ability of a free press to hold the powerful to account is fundamental to our democracy and as a former journalist, I am determined we must never allow criticism to be silenced. For the oligarchs and super-rich who can afford these sky-high costs the threat of legal action has become a new kind of lawfare. We must put a stop to its chilling effect,” said British Prime minister Boris Johnson. 

The UK’s move followed the EU’s passing of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act to crack down on Putin’s oligarch circle in response to the invasion of Ukraine. 

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