SLAPPs against journalists in Europe: Exploring the role of self-regulatory bodies

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Series Details Volume 39, Number 2, Pages 161-176
Publication Date 2024
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Reports show that media freedom is under pressure worldwide. Violence against journalists has a legal facet that takes the form of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) that aim at silencing critical speech. While in some countries there are legal protections against SLAPPs, in Europe a debate is only recently being carried out, mainly fostered by professional journalist associations and civil society.

This article explores the role that European journalistic self-regulatory bodies perceive they (could) have in fighting SLAPPs, analysing 16 qualitative answers gathered via a questionnaire. Self-regulation has historically been a way to protect the independence of journalism and uphold its ethical standards. The open-ended responses help to understand how SLAPPs put into question the representations that media councils and professional associations use to construct their ‘professional jurisdiction’, and therefore, their ‘territory’ and the way in which they see their role in society. Our results provide food for thought on the handling of legal attacks against journalists.

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