The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition welcomes the decision in the case against two investigative journalists and their employer, the Journalism Development Network

Feb 27, 2024 | News

On 22 February 2024, the court issued a ruling in favour of investigative journalists, Daniel Balint-Kurti, Will Jordan, and their employer the Journalism Development Network, which operates the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). 

The legal action against the journalists arose from an investigation published by OCCRP about an oil deal that took place in the late 2000s involving the claimant, Ashti Hawrami. Hawrami is a citizen and resident of the United Kingdom who, as a minister for natural resources, had responsibility for granting oil concessions in Iraqi Kurdistan at that time.

Last week’s decision arose from an application filed by the claimant in an effort to have the case subject to a summary judgement in his favour. The basis for the application was that the defendants’ qualified privilege defence had “no real prospect” of succeeding at trial. The journalists’ defence relies on qualified privilege because they believe that their article represents a “fair and accurate report” of previous court proceedings, specifically Excalibur Ventures LLC v Texas Keystone Inc & Gulf Keystone Petroleum Limited, which concluded in 2013. The journalists will now continue to use a qualified privilege defence, as well as a public interest defence, as they proceed toward trial.

The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition remains concerned that the case against the OCCRP journalists is a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). Index on Censorship, which co-chairs the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition, filed a media freedom alert to the Council of Europe Platform regarding the case in October 2023.

“We reiterate our support for the OCCRP as they continue to defend this case,” the co-chairs of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition said. “The Anti-SLAPP Private Members Bill that is currently before parliament provides a golden opportunity to give all public watchdogs the robust protections they need to prevent them from being unduly dragged through our courts. We hope that the necessary amendments will be considered in the coming weeks to make such protections a reality.”

All questions as to costs and to the progress of the litigation have been reserved until the next hearing, which will take place at 10.30am on 8 April 2024 at the Royal Court of Justice in London.