Press release: The SLAPPs against LGBTI activists in Poland are attempts at stifling democratic participation
Brussels, 12 January 2021
As acknowledged by the European Commission in the European Democracy Action Plan,[i] strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are “a particular form of harassment increasingly used against journalists and others involved in protecting the public interest. […] Their purpose is to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition.”
The Intergroup Secretariat has been following the situation of the activists who created the “Atlas of Hate“ website[ii] (Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak, Paweł Preneta and Kamil Mazcuga) and of the creator of the “LGBT-free zone” photo project (Bart Staszweski). With the exception of Kamil Maczuga, all previously named were subjected to numerous legal cases claiming substantial financial compensation due to their activism for LGBTI issues in Poland.
Especially today, the voice of activists denouncing the discriminatory actions of the government through advocacy or artistic means is particularly needed. Civil society must be free to dissent, criticise and denounce without fearing legal harassment. We have been in regular contact with Polish activists to understand further the developments and what support they need. Last December, we organised discussions with different stakeholders in Poland, including activists. Shortly after, we were informed by some activists of the new cases brought against them attempting to stifle their voices. We will stand at their side and make sure that their voices will be heard.
The attempts from local authorities to stifle the voices of activists can only be seen as an attempt to create a “chilling effect” on LGBTI activism. This is all the more true when these cases are supported by the ultra-conservative Ordo Iuris, which has continuously advocated for the rollback of rights of LGBTI persons, minorities and women. The European Democracy Action Plan contemplates this very situation and it is for that reason that we call on the European Commission to rapidly set up its expert group on SLAPPs and to define concrete actions to counter attempts to curtail the freedom to actively participate in public life.
[i] European Democracy Action Plan, COM(2020) 790 final (2 December 2020), accessible on https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=COM%3A2020%3A790%3AFIN&qid=1607079662423.
Office of Marc Angel MEP – Lisa Kersch (Lisa.Kersch@europarl.europa.eu)
Office of Terry Reintke MEP – Sebastian Fietkau (Sebastian.Fietkau@europarl.europa.eu)