Have your say on legal threats to journalists and the chilling effect on media freedom

  • 06 May 2022

The NUJ is urging members to respond to a call for evidence about the use of SLAPPs in England and Wales.

SLAPPs are legal actions that can be used to harass and intimidate individuals, including journalists and publishers, to deter from publishing, or to remove information in the public interest.

The call is open until 19th May and provides an opportunity to give not only evidence of how this issue might be affecting you and/or your publication, but also feedback on possible reforms. This presents an important opportunity for NUJ members to influence changes to defamation and other laws that can be misused to deter journalists in their reporting. Any future action by the Government is caveated on the evidence provided, so the union is urging members to respond to the consultation closing on 19 May.

The NUJ has already welcomed the commitment by Government to tackle the deployment of SLAPPs, following our calls for anti-SLAPP legislation recognising the emotional and financial burden those subject to action can face.

Find out more about the urgent evidence call closing 19 May

Guidance below has been designed to help you gain a better understanding of:

  • who can respond to the consultation
  • information to include in your submission
  • why it is important to respond
Who can respond to the consultation?

The consultation is open to anyone who has concerns about the potential for legal challenges to limit the publication of information in the public interest. Both those who have been subject to direct SLAPP suit and those who have not been personally threatened but may be impacted by the chilling effect concerns about legal threats can have on reporting -even before a case is filed at court.

If you have received legal threats, settled a case or altered reporting following threat of legal action for your work, it is important you respond to the consultation. You do not need to answer every question in the consultation.

Your responses should be sent to [email protected] and full details can be accessed on the government web page.

What information should I include in my submission?

What to provide If you have been subject to SLAPPs action or forms of lawfare

When responding, consider including a case study of your experiences outlining how you were personally affected. Comments on how the lawsuit or threat of it, impacted decisions you made in your work, any emotional or financial impact, and ways in which action against you proceeded should be included. A full list of questions is provided as part of the consultation questionnaire to help guide you.

You should indicate in your submission, if you would like your responses to remain confidential in government's analysis and response to the Call for Evidence.

Remember, feeling unable to report or publish your work as a direct result of legal threats designed to stymie your work, means your views want to be heard. This includes instances where action against you has not proceeded to court. NUJ members can provide an individual submission or do so jointly with others. Ensure you include your personal views, and avoid submitting an exact duplication of another submission where possible. 

Why is it important to respond?

Government’s evidence call is seeking your experiences in relation to SLAPPs, but also presents a series of reform proposals for consideration. These include considering whether there should be a cap on costs for SLAPPs cases and whether changes are needed to legislation that permits cases to be heard in the UK. Rising attempts to stifle media freedom through lawfare pose serious threats to everyone working within journalism. By making clear to government how the use of legal threats impact journalists in their work, you can help inform the next steps taken. 

UK Anti-SLAPP coalition

The NUJ sits on the UK Anti-SLAPP coalition co-chaired by the Foreign Policy Centre, Index on Censorship and English Pen. As members, we have been actively campaigning for an end to the use of SLAPPs and all legal threats used to intimidate and silence journalists in the UK. This policy paper outlines more on the group and context on how SLAPPs and legal intimidation is used, often in conjunction with other harmful action resulting in significant detrimental impact on those targeted. 

In November 2021, the NUJ signed an open letter by the coalition in support of journalist Catherine Belton being sued alongside Harper Collins by Roman Abramovich and Russian state energy company Rosneft in relation to her book Putin’s People: How the KGB took back Russia and then took back the West. 

The NUJ will submit a response to government’s consultation. Read our statement on their announcement last month. 


Information on SLAPPs including accessing practical support and how to report a case against you is available. 

Am I facing a SLAPP? Toolkit by Index on Censorship - https://www.indexoncensorship.org/am-i-facing-a-slapps-lawsuit/

‘London Calling’: The issue of legal intimidation and SLAPPs against media emanating from the United Kingdom, a report published by the Foreign Policy Centre and ARTICLE 19, April 2022 - provides an in depth look at this issue in the UK context. https://fpc.org.uk/publications/london-calling-the-issue-of-legal-intimidation-and-slapps-against-media-emanating-from-the-united-kingdom/


Return to listing