Workshop: Reform of EU law on Defamation

Workshop: Reform of EU law on Defamation

Workshop: Reform of EU law on Defamation

  • Centre for Private International Law, University of Aberdeen
  • Committee Room 2, University Office
  • Monday 04 March 2019

This workshop will bring together global press freedom NGOs, journalists, representatives of EU institutions, and legal scholars, with a view to highlighting and addressing the weaknesses in defamation law which allow powerful entities to suppress freedom of expression.

The research underpinning the event was prompted by the redaction and deletion of press reports of money laundering in an EU member state following vexatious use of private international law rules. Around the same time, one of the only journalists who refused to submit to demands to alter online content concerning these alleged crimes was assassinated.  Our event will also commemorate that journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, and recall her efforts to preserve freedom of expression.

The workshop coincides with the publication of an academic working paper by Dr Justin Borg-Barthet (‘The Brussels I Regulation as an Instrument for the Undermining of Press Freedoms and the Rule of Law: an Urgent Call for Reform’).

The discussions will inform NGOs’ advocacy efforts concerning legal reforms to preserve press freedoms in the run-up to European Parliament elections and the appointment of a new European Commission.

Due to constraints of space and format, participation in the workshop is by application only. If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr Justin Borg-Barthet.

Workshop Schedule

Reform of EU law on Defamation

  • Centre for Private International Law, University of Aberdeen
  • Committee Room 2, University Office
  • Monday 04 March 2019




Welcome & unveiling of portrait of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Dr Greg Gordon (University of Aberdeen)


Abuse of defamation law in practice

Matthew Caruana Galizia (Director, Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation)

Caroline Muscat (The Shift News)

Gill Phillips (The Guardian)

(Chair: Rebecca Vincent (Reporters Without Borders))


Jurisdiction and choice of law problems in cross-border litigation

Dr Justin Borg-Barthet (University of Aberdeen)

Prof Alex Mills (University College London)

(Chair: Dr Jonathan Fitchen (University of Aberdeen))




Public law limitations to defamation law

Flutura Kusari (European Centre for Press and Media Freedom)

Prof Lori A. Ringhand (University of Georgia)

Margo Smit (News Ombudsman, Netherlands)

(Chair: Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC (Doughty Street Chambers))


Perspectives from the EU institutions

Pia Lindholm (Deputy Head of Unit, Civil Justice, European Commission)

Tom Gibson (Committee to Protect Journalists)

(Chair: Scott Griffen (International Press Institute))


Advocacy strategies

Chaired by Sarah Clarke (Article 19)




Matthew Caruana Galizia

Matthew Caruana Galizia is a journalist and software engineer. He worked at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), where he helped create the organisation's Data and Research Unit in 2014 and was a lead engineer on six major investigations: Offshore Leaks, Swiss Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks, Fatal Extraction, Panama Papers, and Paradise Papers. The Unit's core work on the Panama Papers, which supported the investigations of hundreds of journalists worldwide, led to his team winning the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2017. Matthew left ICIJ in 2018 to set up a family foundation in the name of his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was an investigative journalist assassinated using a car bomb near her home in Malta in October 2017.

Caroline Muscat

Caroline MuscatCaroline Muscat is the co-founder and editor of The Shift News, an online news portal launched in November 2017 as an investigative news outlet to address the gap in independent journalism in Malta. She has over 20 years of experience in the field. She was the former News Editor of The Times of Malta and The Sunday Times of Malta, the country’s leading newspaper, and one of its main investigative journalists. Her work has received a number of awards, including Best News Journalist and Best Environmental Journalist in Malta in 2015, to international awards by the European Commission on work against discrimination. In 2017, she received an award for her defence of press freedom by the Italian journalists’ association Articolo 21 as well as the Pimental Fonseca Prize.

Gill Phillips

Gill PhillipsGill Phillips has been the Director of Editorial Legal Services for the Guardian and Observer newspapers since 2009. She is a qualified solicitor. She advises on a range of content-related matters including defamation, data protection, privacy, contempt of court and reporting restrictions.

She has previously worked at the BBC, The Sun & The News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times. She has advised the Guardian and Observer on phone-hacking, Wikileaks, the Leveson Inquiry, the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden, the HSBC files, and the Panama and Paradise Papers.

Rebecca Vincent

Rebecca VincentRebecca Vincent is the UK Bureau Director for Reporters Without Borders, known internationally as Reporters sans frontières (RSF), which works to promote and defend press freedom around the world. She is an American-British human rights campaigner, writer, and former diplomat posted to the US Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan and the US Mission to the United Nations in New York. Rebecca has more than 13 years of experience in the field of human rights and freedom of expression, and has worked with a wide range of international and Azerbaijani NGOs. She holds an MA in Human Rights from University College London and has published widely on human rights issues.

Dr Justin Borg-Barthet

Justin Borg-BarthetJustin Borg-Barthet is a Senior Lecturer in EU law and private international law at the University of Aberdeen. Since the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Justin's research has focused on the identification of gaps in EU private international law which result in the suppression of press freedoms. In particular, he is exploring how to protect investigative journalists from Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). Justin has acted as a consultant to the European Parliament on a review of the Brussels IIa Regulation, and as part of a steering committee advising the European Commission on the possible introduction of legislation concerning the cross-border mobility of companies. His work on the recognition of same-sex relationships was cited with approval in Advocate General Wathelet's Opinion in Case C-673-16 Coman.

Professor Alex Mills

Professor Alex MillsAlex Mills is Professor of Public and Private International Law in the Faculty of Laws, University College London. His research encompasses a range of issues across public and private international law, including international investment law and commercial arbitration. He has degrees in Philosophy and Law from the University of Sydney, and an LLM and PhD (awarded the Yorke Prize) from the University of Cambridge, where he also taught before joining UCL. His publications include ‘Party Autonomy in Private International Law’ (CUP, 2018), ‘The Confluence of Public and Private International Law’ (CUP, 2009), and (co-authored) ‘Cheshire North and Fawcett’s Private International Law’ (OUP, 2017). He was awarded the American Society of International Law’s Private International Law Prize in 2010, has Directed Studies in Private International Law at the Hague Academy, and is a member of Blackstone Chambers Academic Advisory Panel and the Editorial Board of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly.

Flutura Kusari

Flutura KusariFlutura Kusari is the legal advisor to the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom. She leads the legal support programme and advocates with international organisations to improve legislation in order to defend freedom of expression. In addition, she advises journalists on pre- and post- publication legal matters such as defamation, access to information, contempt of court and privacy. Previously, Kusari worked for various civil society organisations. She holds a Ph.D. in Media Law from Ghent University, Belgium

Professor Lori A. Ringhand 

Professor Lori A. Ringhand Lori A. Ringhand is a Professor of Law at the University of Georgia College of Law. She has been a been a member of the Georgia Law faculty since 2008, and was named J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law in 2012. She is a nationally known Supreme Court scholar and the author of the book Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings and Constitutional Change (with Paul M. Collins) published by Cambridge University Press. Her work on the confirmation process has been cited in major national and international media outlets, including the New York Times, the BBC, the Washington Post, and NPR. She is spending the Spring 2019 semester as a Fulbright Scotland Visiting Professor at the University of Aberdeen, where she is working on a comparative campaign finance project. Ringhand graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and holds a Bachelor of Civil Law degree from the University of Oxford. 

Margo SmitMargo Smit

Margo Smit is news ombudsman since August 1, 2015, overseeing the journalistic output of the Dutch public broadcasters at NPO since january 1, 2017.Smit has been working in journalism since 1989. She was successively a desk editor at commercial and public broadcasters, parliamentary editor at RTL Nieuws, research journalist at KRO Reporter and director of the Dutch-Flemish Association of Investigative Journalists (VVOJ).  In addition, she taught TV journalism at the Master's program at the University of Groningen between 2009 -2017 and is a guest lecturer at various other journalistic programs in the Netherlands and Flanders. She is a board member of, vice-chair of the Global Investigative Journalism Network and a (sleeping) member of ICIJ. Smit was an investigative reporter and journalism teacher for 25 years, and for 6 years ran the Dutch-Flemish association of investigative reporters VVOJ before she became news ombudsman at the Dutch public broadcaster in 2015.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QCCaoilfhionn Gallagher QC is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specialising in human rights, public law and media law. She has acted in many landmark human rights cases in the UK and before the European Court of Human Rights in recent years, including acting for bereaved families and survivors of the 7/7 London bombings, and the Hillsborough disaster; for lone parents and disabled children in challenges to the UK Government’s welfare cuts; and in a series of test cases which have changed the law on the treatment of children in police custody.

Caoilfhionn has particular expertise in freedom of expression and open justice. She regularly advises and acts for newspapers and broadcasters concerning journalistic access to the courts and public interest reporting: for example, she acted for media organisations in the inquest into the death of Gareth Williams (GCHQ employee found dead in a holdall), ensuring that the hearing was open to public scrutiny and could be freely reported, and she acted for the media in proceedings concerning the unexplained death of Poppi Worthington, resulting in live reporting from the High Court, Family Division for the first time and a fresh inquest. She worked with the Media Lawyers’ Association and the Chief Coroner in the development of new guidelines on open justice in the coroners’ courts. Caoilfhionn also regularly acts for journalists, photojournalists, bloggers, peaceful protestors and human rights defenders worldwide who are imprisoned, prosecuted, sued or subjected to travel bans due to their work. Her recent and current work has included leading the international legal team for Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish teenager who was held on remand in Egypt, and for Ramon Nse Ebale, a cartoonist imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea for his cartoons lampooning the President; acting for BBC Persian staff subjected to cross-border harassment by the Government of Iran; and acting for the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the award-winning journalist assassinated in Malta in 2017. She is a member of the UK Advisory Board to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and regularly works with Index on Censorship and other NGOs specialising in freedom of expression.

Pia LindholmPia Lindholm

She is Deputy Head of Unit for Civil Justice in Directorate-General Justice and Consumers of the European Commission.

She joined the Commission in 1995 and has worked in a number of different fields of EU law before joining the Civil Justice Unit in 2017.

Tom Gibson

Tom GibsonTom Gibson joined the Committee to Protect Journalists in January 2017 and is CPJ's lead advocate in Brussels covering the institutions of the European Union. His advocacy has in part focused on pushing EU institutions to address impunity for the journalist murders in Malta and Slovakia as well as strengthen institutional responses to Member States restrictions on press freedom.

Between 2014 and 2016, Gibson managed Protection International's Burundi and Congo desks, advocating for stronger state accountability for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists as well as developing emergency responses and protection measures.

Previously, he worked in Amnesty International's Africa program from 2005 to 2014, based in London and Nairobi. He worked as a campaigner on the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions, and then as a researcher on the Great Lakes. In both roles, he was responsible for leading the international response when journalists were harassed, intimidated, detained, or killed, engaging with state authorities in the region as well as with governments and multilateral organizations in Brussels, Geneva, London, Paris, and Washington. He is the author of numerous Amnesty International reports and publications on human rights abuses including crimes under international law and violations relating to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. He is fluent in French and is a graduate from the University of Sussex.

Scott Griffen

Scott Griffen is deputy director at the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, publishers and journalists defending press freedom since 1950. He is the author of numerous IPI reports on diverse topics related to press freedom and independent journalism and has led or participated in dozens of IPI press freedom missions around the world. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from King’s College London.

Sarah Clarke

Sarah leads ARTICLE 19’s Europe and Central Asia team, defending the human rights to freedom of expression and information in the region. Previously she led PEN International’s policy and advocacy work and co-authored numerous country-specific and thematic reports concerning legal restrictions on free expression and the protection of writers at risk with a special focus on Turkey. Sarah is a consultant for the UNHCR, UNOHCHR, Oxford and Harvard universities on human rights and forced migration. A graduate of Oxford University and Trinity College Dublin, she is currently training as a barrister at the English Bar where she is an Exhibition Scholar of the Inner Temple.


For more images from the event, please follow the link here


Dr Justin Borg-Barthet discusses the workshop and his research in this short video