January 14, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Art Neill, Executive Director, New Media Rights, (619) 591-8870
New Media Rights and UCAN Support Federal Anti-SLAPP Law to Protect First Amendment Rights
“Coalition Seeks to Protect the First Amendment”
San Diego, California – UCAN and New Media Rights have joined with the Federal Anti-SLAPP Project (FASP) and other organizations, which are working to secure federal protections for the First Amendment rights of petition and free speech.
SLAPPs – also known as “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” – are meritless lawsuits brought with the purpose to threaten, intimidate and silence free speech. The Citizen Participation Act (CPA) protects against SLAPPs by allowing the defendant of a meritless lawsuit arising from speech to have it quickly dismissed and to recover the fees, costs, and damages incurred in defending against it. The CPA also provides protection for anonymous Internet speech by requiring persons bringing these lawsuits to first demonstrate that the case has minimum merit. This law protects those whose use their anonymity to avoid censure, harassment or worse at work, school, and in the community.
New Media Rights and UCAN have consistently supported the rights of citizen journalists to speak out on issues of public interest. The CPA upholds this freedom of expression and preserves the willingness of people to express their views.
“Although federal rules and doctrine provide some limited protection for public participation, we need comprehensive and uniform federal legislation,” explained FASP Legislative Director Samantha Brown. “Many states do have anti-SLAPP protections, but there is no uniform protection in place. This means that free speech, as well as the right to petition our government with grievances, depend on where a person exercises his or her First Amendment rights. Also, even in states that do have anti-SLAPP laws, federal and state claims in federal court may not be covered.”
Brown said, “It has been proven time and time again that honesty and accountability are directly tied to free speech, on the part of citizens, the media and elected officials. Lawsuits brought against people who speak pose as much a danger to speech and petition as any law banning such speech could.”
Now is the time for Congress to secure the protections of the kind of citizen participation that creates a well-functioning, open, accountable democracy. New Media Rights and UCAN urge Congress to enact the proposed Citizen Participation in Government and Society Act of 2009 to do just that.