Save Rivers Comes To Zurich To Highlight The Global SLAPP Suit Crisis

Experts at Swiss Anti-SLAPP Conference Identify Samling’s Lawsuit Against SAVE Rivers as an alleged SLAPP Suit

As companies increasingly rely on legal intimidation around the world, Samling is identified as one company in Malaysia allegedly using legal action to silence public participation

A delegation of Indigenous representatives from Sarawak were featured at a conference in Switzerland about SLAPP suits – an increasingly widespread legal strategy that powerful individuals and companies are using to silence opposition and prevent information from being revealed. SLAPPs – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation – are abusive lawsuits that muzzle journalists and civil society from sharing information and intimidate them into silence.

In the case of Sarawak, timber giant Samling has filed a defamation lawsuit against civil society organisation SAVE Rivers. This is in response to a series of press releases SAVE Rivers published that exposed Samling’s failures to properly consult communities in their logging concessions and the communities’ subsequent opposition to the logging. The suit has been identified as an alleged example of a SLAPP suit.

Clare Rewcastle, editor of the Sarawak Report who exposed the 1MDB scandal and who has faced countless legal threats, also spoke at the conference. She labelled the Samling SLAPP suit against SAVE Rivers as an example of “a powerful company targeting Indigenous people, some of the most vulnerable and poor people in the world.”

Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) is facing legal action by Jamilah Taib Murray, daughter of Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud. BMF has linked her unexplained wealth to alleged grand corruption in Sarawak. The case is expected to come to trial this year in a Swiss civil court.

Commenting on the impact of SLAPPs on journalism and civil society, BMF executive director Lukas Straumann explained that “in order to keep our institutions working and our democracies alive, we need to be able to report and speak freely about issues like corruption, money-laundering, human rights violations, environmental destruction, or undue interference in democratic processes.”

SLAPPs are not necessarily designed to win; they are designed to put considerable strain on the defendants’ resources and stop dissent. As explained by Charlie Holt, Greenpeace legal advisor, “legal bullies rarely need to go to court – a strongly worded letter often does the job for them. Any failure to hold these people to account is a failure of democracy.”

The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) is committed to protecting the threatened tropical rainforests and the rights of the Indigenous peoples, especially in Sarawak, Malaysia.

The Borneo Project brings international attention and support to community-led efforts to defend forests, sustainable livelihoods, and human rights.


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