We, the undersigned organisations, welcome today’s judgment on meaning in the case of Arron Banks vs Carole Cadwalladr. The judgment clarified the context of the comments that form the basis of this lawsuit, and noted that aspects of the claimant’s argument were “far-fetched and divorced from the specific context in which those words were used”.
We consider this case to be an example of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), as it is vexatious in nature and intended to silence Cadwalladr’s courageous investigative journalism. We call on Banks to drop this abusive lawsuit and cease efforts to stifle public interest reporting.
We note with concern the abusive approach Banks has taken in targeting Cadwalladr as an individual on the basis of comments she made orally - including a single sentence in a TED talk - and on Twitter, rather than similar reporting that had been published in the Guardian.
Cadwalladr is a laureate of Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom prize - and a series of prestigious journalism prizes - for her courageous reporting on the subversion of democratic processes in the US and UK. As such, she has explored the funding of Banks’ Leave.EU campaign and questioned Banks’ ties to Russia following the leak of documents exposing the Russian government’s offer of a gold and diamond deal to Banks - serious matters that are clearly of high public interest.
We are alarmed by the increasing use of SLAPP lawsuits as a means of attempting to silence public interest reporting - a trend that is posing a growing threat to freedom of expression internationally. We reiterate our call for the UK government to address this as a matter of priority, including through the consideration of anti-SLAPP legislation.
We also encourage support for Cadwalladr’s crowdfunder to build up a team to pursue further investigative reporting into data, disinformation and democracy, and show that such bullying tactics will not be successful in silencing critical reporting.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Index on Censorship