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The defamation suit against the two environmentalists, Devine Cloete and Tracey Davies, alongside Christine Reddell of the Centre for Environmental Rights, is known as a Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, or Slapp, and activists say corporations use them as “a tool to silence and intimidate activists”.
Today is the first court hearing in the case involving three of the six activists who are being sued for defamation by MRC and is as much a preliminary legal skirmish over the disclosure of documents by the latter. The suit is based on comments the activists and Reddell made that were critical of MRC and its South African subsidiaries during a lecture at UCT’s Summer School in 2017.
Slapps, which often take the form of defamation suits, have become a global trend. According to civil society activists, Slapp suits are part of broader strategies used by companies to stifle criticism and intimidate activists and community members.
On Tuesday, in response to the growing number of corporations who use Slapp suits to silence criticism and suppress public activism, civil society organisations officially launched a new joint advocacy campaign in Cape Town.
Known as Asina Loyiko: United Against Corporate Bullying, the newly-launched campaign is aimed at raising awareness about Slapp suits. Meaning “we do not fear”, Asina Loyiko is committed to resisting the threat that Slapp suits and other forms of corporate bullying pose to civil society’s constitutional right to freedom of speech, freedom of the media, academic freedom, and democracy more broadly.
The launch consisted of a media briefing and panel discussion.