Reporters Shield Joins UNESCO Panel on SLAPPs

November 2023

The Vance Center’s Reporters Shield Director Snezana Green joined a panel discussing SLAPPs, as part of UNESCO’s commemoration of the 2023 Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

On November 3, Green participated in a panel entitled “Strategic lawsuits against public participation: a mechanism for silencing the press under the guise of legality.” The multi-lingual panel, which featured speakers in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, was part of a series of events to commemorate UNESCO’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, held on November 2-3 at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington D.C.  

Green detailed the dangers that these lawsuits, known as SLAPPs, pose to investigative reporters and outlets around the world. She introduced Reporters Shield to the audience of press freedom advocates, outlined its goals and requirements, and encouraged anyone interested to apply to the program. 

Reporters Shield, launched in May 2023, is an independent nonprofit organization providing legal defense against defamation and related content-based threats and claims, as well as other benefits, to public interest reporting organizations worldwide, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and private and public foundations.   

In addition to Green, the panel included Barbora Bukovská, Senior Director for Law and Policy at freedom of expression advocacy organization Article 19; United Nations Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan; Rubens Valente, a Brazilian journalist and columnist at independent outlet Agência Pública; and Manuel Cepeda, former chief justice of Colombia’s Constitutional Court and a member of the Media Freedom Coalition’s High-Level Panel of Legal Experts. Edison Lanza, the former OAS Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and currently non-resident Senior Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue’s Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program, moderated the discussion. 

The two-day commemoration, hosted by UNESCO in partnership with the Secretary General of the OAS, the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE), focused on violence against journalists, integrity of elections, and the role of public leadership in addressing these issues. The agenda included panels on the safety of journalists covering elections, obligations of States and the role of public officials in building trust in the media, the future of the media and safety of journalists, online violence and discrimination, and journalism in exile.

In addition to marking the Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, November 2, the event also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the creation of the RELE and the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Special Procedure – both offices that promote and safeguard the right to freedom of expression around the world.

Watch the panel here