SLAPPs: Ryan McSharry writes on the Zahawi scandal for PR Week

February 2, 2023

Nadhim Zahawi, the tax scandal and the reported actions of his libel lawyers have put ‘SLAPPs’ firmly in the spotlight – not a comfortable place for a strategy designed to prevent public scrutiny. But what is a SLAPP, and why does good PR remain crucial?

What is a SLAPP?

SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, and are intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

These lawsuits have become an increasing phenomenon in recent years, often brought on behalf of companies or individuals with deep pockets and much to lose reputationally. The aim of a SLAPP is to intimidate the media into shutting down debate due to fear of gigantic legal costs, and concerns abound that they are being used (unchecked) by powerful figures to stifle legitimate criticism.

What is plain as day, however, certainly in Zahawi’s case, is that his SLAPP strategy has backfired dramatically. Instead of keeping his tax affairs schtum, they have been the subject of weeks of media scrutiny and front-page headlines, made all the more piquant by the revelation that this was a story the former Chancellor strenuously sought to silence.

Why good PR is important

A move away from the use of legal weaponry to shut down public examination only increases the need for sound and strategic PR advice. Scrutiny may be uncomfortable for those in the public eye but, handled well, PRs can seize the opportunity – to explain, inform or correct.

To find out in full why good PR remains crucial in these situations, continue reading the full article written by UK Head of Crisis and Litigation Ryan McSharry over on PR Week.

You can also access more expert insight, PR case studies, and industry news analysis in our Special Reports section.

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