A group of UK journalists have banded together to call on the justice secretary, Dominic Raab, to back a proposed law to tackle “abusive legal tactics to shut down investigations”
The letter, signed by the editors of the Guardian and the Daily Mail, has urged the government to address the “endemic” use of strategic lawsuits against public participation (Slapps).
Slapps are often used to silence investigations into wealthy individuals, with the coalition arguing that they hamper the “law enforcement’s ability to investigate wrongdoing promptly and effectively”.
The group has called for Raab to support a proposed “UK anti-Slapp law” and “move swiftly to enshrine these proposals”.
A recent example of Slapps includes Roman Abramovich suing the journalist Catherine Belton over her book Putin’s People, the coalition said.
In March, Raab launched a consultation on Slapps, and the letter said the government should “not tolerate Russian oligarchs and other corrupt elites abusing British courts to muzzle those who shine a light on their wrongdoing”.
Katharine Viner, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, said: “The abuse of the UK legal system by powerful individuals and vested interests to intimidate journalists should be a subject of national shame. The British government has taken this issue seriously for the first time in a generation, and this model law provides a clear opportunity for the government to act on its good intentions to pass legislation without delay.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our reforms will enable us to better uphold freedom of speech, to end the abuse of our justice system and to defend those who bravely shine a light on corruption.
“This issue is of the utmost importance and is being given urgent consideration. We intend to introduce legislative proposals as soon as possible.”