Increasing SLAPP lawsuits in Kosovo

24. Juli 2020

A certain type of legal actions, often referred as SLAPP lawsuits (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), represents a considerable threat to public debate and freedom of expression. When powerful people or companies are threatening journalists, activists or researchers with expensive lawsuits in order to silence them, these cases are going against the fundamental rights to report and speak up against problems and injustice.

Unfortunately, SLAPP lawsuits are much too common in the European Union. However, in the European Parliament a group of MEPs has been working on solutions for this problem.[1] Only a legally binding anti-SLAPP directive can provide a meaningful protection against those lawsuits.  Recently, there have been a number of such cases in Kosovo against environmental activists as well as against journalists.

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Standing Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Kosovo comments:

“We are working closely with press freedom organisations (more here) and the European Commission on anti-SLAPP measures. Vice President Věra Jourová  (more here) has announced to take concrete actions to make it possible to end those legal cases without lengthy and expensive procedures.”

SLAPP suits are often targeting individual citizens and activists. Environmental activist Shpresa Loshaj is facing a SLAPP lawsuit (more here) because of her activism against hydropower plants in Deçan Valley. In a similar case, environmental activist Adriatik Gacaferi was sued by the same company Kelkos Energy for 10.000 euro. The reason is that he posted a photo on Facebook and accused the company for allegedly illegally putting 100% of the natural water inside the pipes. Their actions are happening at a moment where there is an increasing activism against misused of hydropower in Kosovo.

There have been a number of other cases where the purpose of suing journalists was to silence them, and we are closely monitoring these cases. Most recently, journalist Jeta Xharra was sued because of her investigative work published at BIRN network (article here) which revealed a contract signed by former Minister of European Integration Dhurata Hoxha with a French PR company to promote land-swap. Investigative journalists of Koha Ditore are also facing several baseless SLAPP lawsuits.

These cases, therefore, can be considered as parts of a wider trend. We need to step up against these actions. A long-term solution has to be legal conditions, which punish those, who are misusing provisions regarding defamations. The responsibility of those, who are bringing forward these cases is clear. They are harming democracy, not those, who are speaking up.

“As Standing Rapporteur for Kosovo in the European Parliament, it is part of my job to follow the development of democratic procedures and situation of fundamental rights in Kosovo. I can promise that those, who are trying to shut down democratic debates, will only achieve the opposite of their aims, as I will bring the stories into a wider European publicity. It is our common interest to have everyone’s voice heard.”

[1] Thirty four MEPSs co-sign letter to Věra Jourová initiate a new directive to stop SLAPP suits, https://twitter.com/ViolavonCramon/status/1265969009738100737

photo: Press conference of Adriatik Gacaferi