Turning justice against freedom of expression: how to tackle the increasing use of SLAPPs to silence journalists and others investigating and reporting on the current environmental crisis.


Date and time: Saturday 4 May 2024, 10:00am to 11:00am, Santiago time.

Format: Hybrid: Room 2 (Sala 2A) and online.

Language of the session: English.

Objective: The objective of this panel is to highlight the increasing use of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) to silent the freedom of expression of those reporting on the current environmental crisis, including journalists, media workers, human rights defenders, and environmental activists. Based on a study it commissioned to the Aberdeen University, OHCHR will explore, jointly with the Committee to Protect Journalists and other partners, means and actions that can be taken to address that increasing trend.

Description: Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) masquerade as ordinary civil and criminal lawsuits but are characterized by abusive tactics that are used to increase the psychological and financial cost of defending an action and pressure the defender into settling the case, retracting information, or to cease reporting entirely on important public interest matters. Those tactics include disproportionate, excessive, or unreasonable claims, targeting individuals, filing multiple proceedings, delaying proceedings, and forum shopping. They are increasingly used by state actors, but also more and more by business actors, against those reporting on the current environmental crisis, including journalists, media workers, human rights defenders, and environmental activists. Based on a study that OHCHR commissioned to the Aberdeen University, the side event will give an overview of that concerning trend and examine factors that favor it, including legal frameworks criminalizing defamation. It will also explore means and actions that can be used to tackle that trend, including anti-SLAPPs laws or the use by courts of abuse of process provisions, without jeopardizing the right to access to justice. 


Ms. Irene Khan, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Irene Kahn is the first woman to be appointed as UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression. She was Secretary General of Amnesty International from 2001 to 2009 and Director General of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) from 2012 – 2019.  An internationally recognized advocate for human rights, gender equality and social justice, she is a distinguished fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

Ms. Gypsy Guillén Kaiser, Advocacy and Communications Director, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Gypsy joined the Committee to Protect Journalists as advocacy and communications director in 2021. Previously, she served as director of communications at the International Women’s Health Coalition and at Eisenhower Fellowships, after fighting corruption as the media and public relations manager at Transparency International’s secretariat in Berlin. She served on the boards of the Human Impacts Institute and Friends of Transparency International. Gypsy returned to CPJ after heading the organization’s advocacy and communications department from 2010 to 2013.

Dr. Francesca Farrington, Anti-SLAPP Research Hub, University of Aberdeen

Francesca joined the Aberdeen University School of Law in August 2022 after completing her doctoral studies at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge. She is an active member of the Anti-SLAPP Research Hub where she and her colleagues investigate the strategic use of litigation to suppress freedom of expression on matters of public interest. She has acted as a consultant on SLAPPs for the European Parliament and the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

Ms. Flutura Kusari, Senior Legal Advisor, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

In addition to her activities with ECPMF, Flutura co-leads the Anti-SLAPP work at the European level as part of the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) and as an expert for the European Union and Council of Europe. Before joining ECPMF, Flutura worked for various civil society organizations, including the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. She holds a Ph.D. in Media Law from Ghent University, Belgium.

Ms. Christen Dobson, Co-Head, Civic Freedoms & Human Rights Defenders Programme, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

Christen Dobson co-leads the Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders programme at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, which collaborates with groups across the globe to address harmful corporate behavior and the root causes of violence against human rights and environmental defenders. From 2009 to 2016, Christen led the Human Rights Funders Network’s Research and Policy program, where she managed a global research initiative to map and analyze the landscape of human rights funding and supported donor efforts to address closing space for civil society. She has previously consulted with The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice, Global Greengrants Fund, and Prospera – International Network of Women’s Funds. Christen holds a Master of International Affairs degree with a concentration in human rights from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Moderator: Mr. Renaud de Villaine, Media Freedom and Safety of Journalists Adviser, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Renaud has been working for more than ten years with OHCHR where he held various positions, including desk officer on African countries, field officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and legal advisor to the commissions of inquiry on Eritrea and Burundi. He is currently serving as advisor on media freedom and the safety of journalists. Before joining OHCHR, Renaud worked for non-governmental organizations both in European Union liaison offices in Brussels and in Liberia. He holds a master’s degree on human rights and humanitarian law at the University Paris II Panthéon-Assas.

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