A ‘SLAPP’ to democracy? Case study of the effects of strategic lawsuits against public participation in Slovenia

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Čas, Zala
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In recent years, several concerns have been raised over the threat of Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPP) to European democracy. This thesis explores the effects of SLAPP lawsuits both on public watchdogs as individual targets and a broader community, and how they essentially undermine democracy. The threat to democracy is explored with the analysis of freedoms and human rights that are restricted due to SLAPP effects, as well as with a single-country case study of Slovenia. Although it is maintaining a relatively high level of democracy, Slovenia has been recognized as a country under the threat of SLAPPs. For a better understanding of the effects, in-depth interviews were conducted with SLAPP victims and experts familiar with this phenomenon. Participants represented different spheres that SLAPPs in Slovenia are targeting: media, environmentalism, activism, and academia. First, the analysis focuses on the individual experiences and observations from the participants on the specifics and extent of SLAPP effects in each sphere. Then, it explores the relationship between the country’s state of democracy, recent political changes, and SLAPP cases. The analysis shows that despite the recent political shift from a right-wing government known for undemocratic actions to a left-liberal one, the threat of SLAPPs is still present. While the threat of state-led SLAPP has diminished, critical voices are still targeted by a variety of powerful actors with either political or economic goals to silence them. As emphasized by the participants, legal countermeasures are needed to tackle SLAPP lawsuits, since political changes alone will not save democracy.
Second semester University: University of Vienna
Slovenia, democracy, participation, political participation, Europe, freedom of expression, rule of law, freedom of association