The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition is formed by the Foreign Policy Centre and Index on Censorship.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich files a case against journalist Catherine Belton and her publisher HarperCollins for her book Putin’s People.
Realtid, a Swedish Publication, its editor and two journalists face their first jurisdictional hearing against the Monaco-based Swedish businessman, Svante Kumlin, for their investigation into his business affairs. 24 coalition members release a statement in support.
The British investigative journalist Oliver Bullough, receives a letter from the Scottish law firm Bannatyne Kirkwood France & Co, objecting to the inclusion of the Vice-President of Angola Bornito de Sousa in his book MoneyLand, and demanding that the book be withdrawn. A complaint is later filed in Portugal.
English PEN join Index on Censorship and the Foreign Policy Centre as co-chair of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition
SLAPPs are mentioned in the UK Parliament for the first time by Damian Collins MP during a debate for World Press Freedom Day
Abramovich also lodges a defamation action against HarperCollins in Australia regarding Catherine Belton’s book, Putin’s People.
Four of the five cases threatened against Catherine Belton, and her publisher make it to a meaning hearing. HarperCollins decides to settle two of the cases just brought against them. 19 coalition members release a statement condemning the legal actions against Catherine Belton and HarperCollins.
ENRC files two cases against the journalist Tom Burgis – one with his publisher HarperCollins, and one with his employer the Financial Times. This follows a previous case initiated in the US in 2020. 22 coalition members publish a statement condemning the lawsuits.
At the first ever UK Anti-SLAPP Conference, the Coalition publishes its ‘Proposals for Procedural Reform’, developed during roundtables with legal experts, which conclude the need for a UK Anti-SLAPP Law.
Abramovich decides to settle the case with Catherine Belton and HarperCollins, and withdraws the Australia case.
Eliot Higgins, founder of open source news agency Bellingcat, has a libel case filed against him in London by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch known as ‘Putin’s Chef’. The claims related to tweets Higgins posted linking to investigations about Prigozhin’s connections with the Wagner Group.
In what is believed to be the first Appellate decision on the territorial reach of the UK GDPR, the Court of Appeal give Walter Soriano, an Israeli/British citizen, permission to bring a data protection claim (together with libel and misuse of private data claims) against California-based media outlet Forensic News, its founder and several of its journalists.
Coalition members monitor Carole Cadwalladr’s trial at the Royal Courts of Justice.
The National Crime Agency seizes £5.6m from the family of the Azerbaijani MP who sued journalist Paul Radu in London’s libel courts between 2018-2020.
A debate on ‘Lawfare and the UK Court System’ is held in Parliament on 20th January. Co-sponsored by Conservative MP David Davis and Labour MP Liam Byrne, 16 MPs took part to discuss SLAPPs. At the debate the UK Government announced that it will be a member of the Council of Europe’s working group on SLAPPs, to produce an anti-SLAPP draft Recommendation for member states due in December 2023.
On 24th February, Russia invades Ukraine and the then Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, is reported to have told Government lawyers to “find literally any way” to crack down on SLAPPs.
15 Anti-SLAPP Coalition members condemn an ongoing lawsuit against Forensic News, deeming it a SLAPP.
Yevgeny Prigozhin denies any association with Wagner Group, when it was sanctioned in March 2022. At the following hearing of Eliot Higgins’ case, Edward Miller from Discreet Law LLP successfully applied to withdraw the law firm from representing Prigozhin.
At a meaning hearing, Justice Nicklin dismissed ENRC’s case against Burgis and HarperCollins finding their claim that Burgis had defamed the company was without merit as only individuals can commit murder, not corporations. Less than two weeks later, on 14th March, ENRC withdrew its remaining case against Burgis and the FT.
On 4th March, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) mentions SLAPPs for the first time in its updated guidance on Conduct in Disputes.
On 15th March, Foreign Affairs Select Committee holds a one-off evidence session on SLAPPs, including witness statements from Catherine Belton, Tom Burgis, their publisher at HarperCollins Arabella Pike, and Coalition co-chair Susan Coughtrie.
On 17th March, Justice Minister Dominic Raab, launches a call for evidence on SLAPPs, which cites Foreign Policy Centre’s and the CASE’s research. On 31st March, the House of Lords’ Digital and Communications Committee, also holds an evidence session on SLAPPs with journalists and lawyers, including Coalition co-chair Charlie Holt.
In May, Justice Nicklin struck out the claim against Eliot Higgins from the High Court as Prigozhin repeatedly failed to comply with court orders.
In his judgement in the SLAPP case against Realtid, Justice Knowles ruled that the courts of England and Wales do not have jurisdiction over ten of the 13 defamation claims.
Carole Cadwalladr wins her case against Arron Banks. While the judgement was heralded as a landmark case for media freedom, having been defended on public interest, the judge also took the unprecedented step of stating she found it “neither fair nor apt” to describe the case as a SLAPP suit.
On 24th June, FPC and ARTICLE 19’s report ‘London Calling’, is presented in Parliament at a briefing hosted by the APPGs on Anti-Corruption and Responsible Tax, and Fair Business Banking. An Economic Crime Manifesto, published jointly by both APPGs, includes a call for anti-SLAPP legislation.
The MoJ publish the outcome report from their consultation. It finds that journalists, media and other publishers will “no longer publish information on certain individuals or topics – such as exposing serious wrongdoing or corruption – because of potential legal costs.” The UK Government commits to legislative reform. The co-chairs of UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition release a statement welcoming this step but calling for bolder measures.
Claims are filed against openDemocracy, TBIJ and the Telegraph. The outlets had reported on the link between the Nazarbayev Fund, associated with a former Kazakh president and Jusan Technologies Ltd, a UK registered company that controlled over $7.8bn in gross asset value. 21 UK Coalition members publish a statement titled: ‘Anti-SLAPP measures cannot come fast enough’.
The SRA, which regulates solicitors in England and Wales, sets out its ongoing steps to address this issue. These have included instigating a thematic review, identifying almost 30 cases where a firm may have been involved in a SLAPP
Eliot Higgins posted a twitter thread in which he pointed out that Prigozhin has now admitted his involvement with Wagner.
On 17th October, David Davis MP sponsors a debate on Lawfare and Investigative Journalism in light of the claims filed against TBIJ, the Telegraph and openDemocracy, and calls for SLAPP reforms to “move more quickly.” During the debate Dame Margaret Hodge also raises concerns regarding a legal challenge against Chatham House, in relation to their December 2021 report ‘The UK’s Kleptocracy Problem.’
On 22 November, the Model UK Anti-SLAPP Law, developed by the Coalition together with expert media lawyers, is launched in Parliament at an event co-hosted by MPs David Davis and Liam Byrne.
Between 28-29 November, Foreign Policy Centre, in partnership with the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and the Justice for Journalists Foundation, hosted the second edition of the UK Anti-SLAPP Conference in London, entitled ‘Spotlighting Solutions’.
On 29 November, a letter signed by 70 editors, journalists, lawyers and experts and coordinated by the Coalition was sent to Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak, calling for the UK Government to incorporate the UK Model Anti-SLAPP Law into its planned legislative response to SLAPPs.
In January, openDemocracy revealed that Yevgeny Prigozhin had still been able to obtain special licences from the UK Government to sue journalist Eliot Higgins of investigative website Bellingcat, who had exposed his crimes, for libel.
On 16 January, Realtid published a statement on their website confirming that the parties have reached a settlement, which means that Svante Kumlin pays part of Realtid’s legal fees and that Realtid adds an apology to three of the articles about Svante Kumlin and EEW. In March, 21 Coalition members signed a statement welcoming the settlement, while calling for robust anti-SLAPP measures in the UK.
Dominic Raab, the Justice Minister, responded to the 29 November letter coordinated by the Coalition but failed to confirm a timetable for the bringing forward of anti-SLAPP measures by the UK Government.
In February 2023, the Court of Appeal found of the three claims under appeal, two in Carole Cadwalladr’s favour and one in Arron Banks.
On 1 March 2023, the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) rejected Walter Soriano’s appeal and upheld obtaining of evidence through a US court for use in English civil proceedings. Ahead of a court hearing scheduled for 2nd March 2023, it was confirmed that the case had been settled, with written statements being published on the Forensic News website, as well as the twitter accounts of Scott Stedman and the other involved journalists. The seven articles and one podcast episode that formed the basis of the SLAPP have been taken down and will no longer be publicly available.
In response to the news that Prigozhin had secured a licence to sue Eliot Higgins, on 30 March, the UK Government announced reform to the sanctions regime to make it harder for licences to be granted for defamation actions.
As part of the second US Summit for Democracy held between 29 and 31st March, the UK pledges to ‘decisively’ stamp out SLAPPs with a deadline of March 2025.
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