“The Silencer,” a report from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
published on Monday, alleges a phenomenon in which strategic lawsuits are used
against public participation (“SLAPP suits”) and activism on local and national
The phenomenon has been growing steadily over the past decade in
Israel, the report says.
“We are increasingly witnessing libel claims
with weak or even outlandish bases, yet which are effective silencing measures
against social and environmental activists who speak out on matters of public
importance,” according to the author of the report, attorney Avner Pinchuk of
“Though the court seeks in the course of the trial to maintain a
balance between freedom of expression and the right to maintain one’s good name,
it fails to see the big picture,” he said.
Examples of SLAPP suits given
in the report include: the Coffee To-Go Company’s lawsuit against waitresses who
tried to unionize, a recycling corporation threatening to sue an organization
that gave it a “prize” for harming the environment and the mayor of Tiberias
suing the managers of a Facebook group criticizing him.
companies or wealthy individuals, the cost of initiating such lawsuits is
minimal, the report says.
At the same time, for “ordinary citizens who in
the course of their activism use journalism and social media sites like
Facebook,” grappling with legal complexities and defending themselves against
lawsuits is prohibitively costly.
The report concludes by listing a
number of steps that can be taken, both in the legal and the public spheres, to
reduce the “chilling effect” of libel