Strategic lawsuits against public participation are widespread around the world. Ecoclub also suffered from such a lawsuit. This example was discussed, among others, at the conference “Making Society Silent: The Impact of SLAPP (SPPUG) on Journalism and Civil Society” in Zurich, Switzerland.
The public has the right to participate in decision-making on the construction of potentially dangerous facilities, and no one should threaten lawsuits for an active position. SLAPP (“Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”) aims to prevent the public from exercising their right to freedom of speech and debates.
Ecoclub learned about this pressure after criticizing the report on the environmental impact assessment of the Kronospan woodworking plant, which will soon start operating near Rivne. We have demanded 150 thousand hryvnias of “compensation” and refutations of what the investor stated in the documents: excess emissions of pollutants into the environment due to the plant’s activities.
A study by HEKS shows that six of the eleven Swiss NGOs surveyed have already suffered from lawsuits by multinational companies and concerns.
Chantal Peyer, a political adviser, says:
“The space for NGOs in Switzerland is dwindling due to lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits. It greatly complicates our work as human rights defenders.”
Examples of pressure were discussed at the conference “Making Society Silent: The Impact of SLAPP on Journalism and Civil Society” in Zurich. The conference was designed to draw public attention to this issue and discuss options for action with affected journalists, and employees of NGOs.
Oksana Maryuk, a member of Ecoclub, shared with the audience the story about the lawsuit filed by the Kronospan woodworking plant against local activists.
“I want to stress that SLAPPs affect journalists and activists and civil society and the justice system itself. As these lawsuits are filed more often, there is a worrying tendency of attempts by big businesses and politicians to use courts not to establish justice but to restrict the public’s right to freedom of speech and access to information. In addition, they lead to an additional burden on the judiciary. Which also costs a lot of money for taxpayers. So there is an urgent need for anti-SLAPP regulation”.
In February 2020, Kronospan filed a lawsuit against Ecoclub for “damage to business reputation,” demanding UAH 150,000 compensation for criticizing their activities. Subsequently, the plaintiff reduced the amount of payment to one hryvnia. During the litigation (representatives of the plant did not appear in court several times), the company carried out construction works.