500+ participants / 80+ speakers / 20+ panels


Silencing Dissent: Fight for Human Rights in Central and Eastern Europe and Western Balkans 

October 12, 2023 by BSC


 The moderator, Paul Helsloot, Director of Strategy, Reaserch and Political Affairs, Amnesty International the Netherlands, started a conversation centred around the pressing challenges faced by human rights activists and the possibility of sparking hope of developing strategies for solving these problems.  



Aron Demeter, Head of Research and Communications, Amnesty International Hungary, explained the concept of SLAPP lawsuits, which are aimed at activists and journalists to silence them. He stated that the use of SLAPP lawsuits is not very common in Hungary, since the Government owns various media and passes laws that encourage self-censorship among activists and journalists. Mr. Demeter also praised the judiciary in Hungary for being the last standing institution protecting the rule of law in this country. 



Roberta Taveri, Senior Programme Officer Europe Media Freedom at ARTICLE 19 Europe, highlighted that civil society organizations have recognised the problem of SLAPP lawsuits and have started to research it. She emphasized that the European Union was trying to put forward a directive that would regulate and limit these lawsuits and that it has already given several recommendations to member states since it has identified a need to include safeguards in national legislation.  



Mark Taylor, Senior Program Manager, The Docket Initiative, Clooney Foundation for Justice, stated that Russia was an extreme example, as “every new crisis brings new regulation to silence dissent”. While talking about corporations using SLAPP lawsuits, he put forward the example of the Wagner mercenary group suing activists in courts in the United Kingdom. He also raised awareness of the use of SLAPP methods of silencing dissent. 



Milan Filipović, Research Director at the Lawyers‘ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) pointed out YUCOM has a large database of attacks on civil rights defenders and added that physical attacks would always galvanise the public, therefore, attacks are increasingly being conducted through SLAPP lawsuits. He praised the persistence of activists who endure legal prosecution that can last up to a year. Mr Filipović also commented on hate speech on social media, as well as hate speech used by Government officials and tabloid media.