The PATFox Project: 55 Lawyers Prepared to Defend the Press in SLAPP Cases Following CIJ Trainings
The Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) held three trainings this spring for lawyers who want to defend journalists, NGOs and human rights defenders in cases of SLAPP litigation.
SLAPPs or strategic litigation against public mobilization are a growing threat to freedom of expression across the European Union. However, Romania is not an exception, litigations that have the purpose to intimidate are also used in our country, even if they are not directly called SLAPPs.
The trainings focused on the legislative framework in Romania and the anti-SLAPP legislative proposal at the European level, legal actions against public participation in Romania, as well as concrete recommendations for lawyers. The three workshops were held by Diana Olivia Hatneanu, a lawyer with a vast experience before national courts and the European Court of Human Rights, member of the European Commission’s Expert Group against SLAPP.
The first training was held online in February after CIJ received three times more applications than the number of seats available for the training. This is why another session was organized in a face-to-face format, on March 21 at the Sheraton hotel, where 15 lawyers from the Bucharest Bar Association participated. A third edition took place online, on March 22, when 15 lawyers from different counties of Romania participated in the workshop.
The sessions started with a short introductory speech by Cristina Lupu, Executive Director of the CIJ, who expressed the need for well-trained legal specialists, prepared to efficiently defend the press and other people advocating for freedom of expression when they are faced with strategic lawsuits meant to silence or discourage them.
The first part of the trainings focused on the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of persons involved in public mobilization actions against manifestly unfounded or abusive legal proceedings. The discussion continued with the Commission’s Recommendation (EU) 2022/758 of 27 April 2022 on the protection of journalists and human rights defenders involved in public mobilization actions against manifestly unfounded or abusive legal proceedings.
In the last part of the meetings, the trainer focused on the legal actions against public participation in Romania, the invocation of violation of non-patrimonial rights and relevant defenses. She presented all the special provisions of the Romanian Civil Code that refer to personal freedoms and are related to SLAPP processes and then she showed the ECHR criteria which can balance Art. 8 and Art.10. The discussion continued with article 7 of the law 190/2018 on measures implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the processing of personal data for journalistic academic, artistic or literary purposes, together with other GDPR articles.
The three trainings were carried out within the PATFox project (Pioneering Anti-SLAPP Training for Freedom of Expression), co-financed by the European Commission. PATFox is implemented by organizations in Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, countries where SLAPP processes are widely spread. The project aims to train professionals from the legal field. PATFox will develop Europe’s first anti-SLAPP curriculum to facilitate the training process in member states. More materials are available on the project’s website, antislapp.eu.