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SPJ supports Washington City Paper in SLAPP case
For Immediate Release
Hagit Limor, SPJ President, (513) 852-4012,
Abby Henkel, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 215,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists has joined an amicus brief challenging as meritless a complaint filed by the owner of the Washington Redskins alleging that he was defamed in a Washington City Paper cover story titled “The Cranky Redskin Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder.”
Owner Dan Snyder filed the case, Snyder v. Creative Loafing Inc., against the Washington, D.C. weekly Washington City Paper and reporter Dave McKenna for publishing an article revealing information about, among other topics, Snyder’s past legal and public relations problems.
In joining the amicus brief, authored by the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, SPJ reiterates the importance of encouraging a free press and eliminating harmful lawsuits against free speech on public issues. The amicus brief argues that Snyder’s case is a SLAPP suit, or strategic litigation against public participation. In a SLAPP suit, the plaintiff does not seek to win in the lawsuit, but rather aims to put relentless legal and financial pressure on the defendant in order to prevent future negative news coverage.
The City Paper and McKenna filed a special motion to dismiss the case under the District of Columbia’s new anti-SLAPP statute, arguing that the lawsuit was filed to silence the City Paper’s criticism of Snyder.
“SLAPP suits are nothing more than an attempt to shut down factual reporting when the subject knows he can’t challenge the truth,” SPJ President Hagit Limor said. “Our honored court system should rise above rewarding those who simply have more money than their enemies to fight a legal battle regardless of the merits of their attack.”
Snyder sued for defamation over a front-page article that he alleges accused him personally, rather than his company, of committing forgery. Snyder further claims that the article’s accompanying illustration is anti-Semitic. If the defendants show that the suit is a SLAPP suit, the plaintiff must prove a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case. The City Paper and McKenna have argued that the claim will not succeed because the allegedly defamatory statements are substantially true or protected opinion. The case is pending in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
As a free press and free speech advocate, SPJ initiates and joins amicus briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases. Most recently, SPJ joined a brief supporting Wall Street Journal reporter Jesse Eisinger in a New York shield law case.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.