SLAPPs: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation
These are lawsuits filed against individuals or groups who voice concerns about issues affecting their communities, e.g. Illegal working conditions, environmental impact or police brutality. The plaintiff, or SLAPPer, is usually the government or a corporation, which uses existing laws on the books — like defamation — to intimidate people who legitimately express their concerns.
A SLAPP is an abuse of the law in an effort to silence critics. Because SLAPPers use existing laws, sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s a SLAPP and what’s not. A telltale sign: if a case affects an issue of public concern – it’s a SLAPP.
Speaking up = jail time
Most countries have defamation laws. They protect people when damaging or inaccurate information is spread about them. Thailand stands out because it has criminal defamation laws. This means that public criticism could lead to jail time. Over the last twenty years, the vast majority of SLAPP cases have had criminal charges, which have the most severe consequences.
Critical change-makers are the most vulnerable
Political activists, journalists, community leaders, human rights defenders and even academics are especially vulnerable to SLAPP. These people are more important than ever in Thailand.
SLAPP cases & the wealth gap
Since 1997, and especially after the 2014 military coup, SLAPP cases have been on the rise. Wealth has increasingly concentrated in a small group while inequality has also skyrocketed, creating record-high numbers of vulnerable populations. The richest 1% own almost two-thirds of the entire country’s wealth. It’s the largest wealth gap in the world.
It’s a growing, global issue
SLAPP cases aren’t unique to Thailand. They are a legal maneuver that stem from a desire to squash opposition and criticism, and thrive when left unchecked.
In the UK, millionaire Arron Banks has sued independent journalist Carole Cadwalladr for her exposé on Cambridge Analytica’s role in Brexit.
Thailand is providing a model to silence critics around the globe. As the world’s wealthy consolidate their power, SLAPP cases — and the number of people at risk of facing judicial harassment — are rapidly increasing.
Who are the SLAPPers?
Primarily the Thai government. But out of 212 cases, 59 of them were brought by private corporations.
Who can get SLAPPed?
Almost anyone. About 1 in 4 SLAPP victims are political activists. But everyone from white collar professionals to migrant workers can be targets.
SLAPP cases don’t just punish activists
They intimidate the entire public from speaking out. In this way, SLAPP has a chilling effect on free expression that spreads across Thai society. And it comes at a price for taxpayers too. Criminal cases are expensive. Wealthy corporations are suing whistle-blowers and activists, using public resources including public investigators, prosecutors and court officials.
Why should SLAPP be stopped?
Decriminalizing defamation will serve the public good, saving Thai taxpayers millions while empowering ordinary people to speak out on issues of critical importance.
The impact of SLAPP
- It silences critical debate.
- It leaves corporate and state power unchecked.
- It marginalizes disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
- It costs taxpayers money.
- It sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world.
- Read the full What is SLAPP & Why you should care here.
- อ่านรายงาน SLAPP คืออะไร และทำไมเราถึงต้องให้ความสำคัญ ที่นี่
- Read the full Thailand: Recommendations on the Protection of Those who Exercise Their Rights and Freedoms from Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participations
- อ่านฉบับเต็มของ รายงานสถานการณ์การฟ้องคดีเพื่อระงับการมีส่วนร่วมของประชาชนในประเทศไทยและข้อเสนอเเนะในการแก้ไขปัญหา
- ติดตามคดี SLAPP และคดีเกี่ยวกับสิทธิเสรีภาพ ได้ที่ ศูนย์ข้อมูลกฎหมายและคดีเสรีภาพ (iLaw)