Civil defamation charges against the Guardian journalist and author Carole Cadwalladr are an attempt to silence her reporting by weaponizing the judicial system against her, PEN America said today. The charges have arisen from her critical reporting and commentary on Brexit.

Cadwalladr, a journalist for the Guardian, was sued by British businessman and political donor Arron Banks in July 2019, on four counts of defamation. The charges all relate to Cadwalladr’s reporting and commentary on Brexit. Her reporting alleges that Banks—who reportedly contributed 8 million pounds to pro-Brexit group Leave.EU, the largest donation in UK political history —had lied about his connections to Russian state actors. Banks dropped two of the four charges of defamation in January 2020, after a UK judge found them to be “far-fetched and divorced from the specific context in which those words were used.”

The speech-at-issue arises from claims Cadwalladr made, drawing on her reporting for the Guardian, at a TED Talk about Brexit, and the democratic electoral process, as well as a related tweet. Banks has pursued charges against Cadwalladr as an individual and has not moved to sue the Guardian. Cadwalladr has reportedly had to turn to crowdfunding to pay for her legal defense. Cadwalladr’s legal defense rests on the claim that her reporting was in the public interest.

“The aim of this lawsuit against Cadwalladr is to punish and silence her for her reporting on one of the most significant political developments in the United Kingdom. It’s for this reason that we do not hesitate to label this lawsuit against Cadwalladr a SLAPP: a strategic lawsuit against public participation. We hope that the court will recognize the substantial interests of the public that are at stake here. Journalists should not have to risk financial ruin for reporting that may reflect unfavorably on the rich and powerful. We stand with Cadwalladr in this fight.” said James Tager, Director of Research at PEN America.

Last week, 19 press freedom organizations, including the PEN International secretariat and PEN America’s sister center English PEN, similarly voiced their support for Cadwalladr and their conviction that these charges represent a strategic lawsuit against public participation, known as a SLAPP.