Can SLAPP lawsuits be beaten? Here’s what’s wrong – and what you can do

Nadhim Zahawi.

SLAPP. It stands for “Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation” and refers to the practice of rich and powerful people taking others to court (notably journalists) in order to halt debate about them that is in the public interest and stifle free speech.

Two examples of SLAPP lawsuits are currently in the news: Russian oligarch and warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin’s abortive libel suit against a UK journalist, and Nadhim Zahawi’s attempt to silence another UK journalist who was investigating his tax affairs. This video clip features discussion of Zahawi’s SLAPP suit.

Prigozhin allegedly had help from the UK Treasury (headed at the time by Rishi Sunak) to dodge sanctions that had been imposed against him at the time. He is the founder of Wagner, a private army that is currently understood to be committing atrocities in Ukraine.

Zahawi failed to pay millions of pounds worth of tax after selling shares in polling firm YouGov that had been held by offshore trust Balshore Investments. He came to terms with the Treasury in which he agreed to make a payment – but the fact that he was Chancellor at the time – Treasury officers’ boss – has cast doubt on the ethical integrity of that agreement.

Neither of these cases should have been allowed to start, but they were – and the Prigozhin case left the journalist in question owing around £70,000 in legal fees before it was halted just after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The UK government has previously pledged to give courts in England and Wales new powers to dismiss lawsuits employed by wealthy claimants to stifle free speech, but has yet to put forward any draft legislation.

A Private Members Bill put forward by Conservative Bob Seely has been tabled to concentrate Ministerial minds on the subject.

Quoted in The Guardian, he said, “As a business model, it is a form of legalised intimidation, effectively legal gangsterism” deployed by organised criminals, authoritarian states, oligarchs and corrupt corporations, which “undermines the good reputation of London”.

This Writer tends to agree – especially as I am the victim of a SLAPP lawsuit myself. I am currently appealing against a decision in favour of the Claimant. Details are available here:

My defence is crowdfunded, and if you would like to donate and/or encourage others to do so, then please:

Make a donation via the CrowdJustice page. Keep donating regularly until you see the total pass the amount I need.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

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On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

Use other social media in the same way.

if you’re having trouble, or simply don’t like donating via CrowdJustice, you can always donate direct to me via the Vox Political PayPal button.

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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