A hard SLAPP: Why helping Mike fight libel claim will stop abuse of the law

Have any of you heard of SLAPP before?

It’s short for “Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation” and refers to lawsuits that are used to intimidate and silence journalists working in the public interest.

According to a recent letter in The Guardian, abuse of defamation law, including through SLAPP lawsuits, has become a serious threat to press freedom and advocacy rights in a number of countries, including the UK.

The legal claim against me, issued on July 9 by lawyers acting for Rachel Riley, is a clear example of a SLAPP lawsuit, in which a wealthy individual is apparently abusing the law in an attempt to silence a journalist and distract from the issues being discussed.

I wish I had known about the Guardian letter because I would have added my name to it.

It calls on the government to consider new legislation to prevent the abuse of defamation law to silence public interest reporting.

It also urges ministers to take a clear public stance condemning such practices and supporting investigative journalism and independent media.

This ties in with the fact that I – an independent journalist (and carer) of limited means – am being sued by a very wealthy celebrity because UK defamation law allows it.

Ms Riley won’t have to compensate me if her case is disproved (although she may face an order to pay a contribution toward my costs – which may come in handy if there is a shortfall between what I raise here and the cost of my defence).

In fact, it seems she won’t lose anything more than dignity if she loses the case because she has taken out insurance against that eventuality.

I stand to win nothing. My case is purely defensive. I simply don’t have the resources to mount a counter-claim (unless anyone knows better).

So, in the absence of laws to stop the wealthy abusing the justice system, I must rely on donations by members of the public – or I can’t mount a defence.

Ms Riley seems to find this offensive. Apparently she considers this CrowdJustice campaign to be an aggravating factor in her case.

Personally, I think her case against me should be used as an aggravating factor in the evidence for reform to ban SLAPP lawsuits like this.

I also think the information above provides up to three good reasons for you to support me – and/or recruit other people to this valuable cause.

Guess what I’m going to ask you to do next?

If you haven’t done so already, please email five of your friends, asking them to pledge to this case. If you have, please email five more.

You could also post a link to Facebook, asking your friends to pledge. The address is https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/

If you’re on Twitter, you could tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

And if you can afford it, please consider pledging some more cash yourself.

You have done fantastically well so far. Let’s keep it up – all the way to the end.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.


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