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Free Speech and Media Law (BLAW10002)

Undergraduate level 1Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 1
Subject codeBLAW10002
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Our current laws regarding free speech and media have grown up in an era of mainstream media institutions. Now every individual with a computer or mobile device and access to the internet can record, report and comment on events, and frequently does. The old focus on organised media and largely passive audience is breaking down. As a result, the regulation of free speech and media has to contemplate the whole gamut of media from highly institutionalised to highly diffused, and the question is whether these diverse arrangements can be addressed without unduly constraining public debate.

Principal topics:

  • introduction: law's regulation of free speech and media;
  • history and philosophy of free speech;
  • development of a 'media law': the inherited British tradition of law-making and interpretation, role of the High Court, international influences on local law, etc;
  • the High Court's implied constitutional freedom of political communication, comparisons with explicit rights frameworks in other jurisdictions (especially US), problems of the national law approach in an interconnected environment;
  • reporting the courts and constraints on freedom of speech: contempt, suppression orders and the right to a fair trial;
  • censoring the media: defamation laws and the significant constraints they impose on speech;
  • contemporary and comparative defamation laws and their reform;
  • confidentiality, privacy and the media;
  • the protection of journalists' sources;
  • blasphemy and obscenity laws and the shaping of public opinion, racial and religious vilification and other forms of 'offensive' speech; and
  • possible futures - disaggregating free speech and media.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this subject students should:

  • Recognise that free speech and the media have various legal connection points;
  • appreciate the multiple ways in which free speech and the media may be protected and restricted by the law; and
  • understand the basic features of the legal treatment of free speech and the media.

Generic skills

On completion of the subject the student should have:

  • Capacity for self-directed learning, specifically the ability to plan work and use time effectively;
  • cognitive and analytical skills;
  • ability to speak about complex ideas in a clear and cogent manner;
  • an awareness of diversity and plurality;
  • write essays which develop structured argumentation; and
  • capacity to judge the worth of their own arguments.

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

Attendance at at least 75% of tutorials (hurdle)

Assignment 2,000 words (35%);

Examination (65%).

The due dates of the above assessment will be available to students via the LMS subject page.

Dates & times

  • Semester 2
    Principal coordinatorJason Bosland
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours36 hours (one 1.5 hour lecture and one 1.5 hour tutorial per week)
    Total time commitment136 hours
    Teaching period29 July 2019 to 27 October 2019
    Last self-enrol date 9 August 2019
    Census date31 August 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail27 September 2019
    Assessment period ends22 November 2019

    Semester 2 contact information

Time commitment details

136 hours

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    • Printed subject materials will be available from the University Co-Op Bookshop.
  • Breadth options
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

    Additional information for this subject

    If required, please contact law-admissions@unimelb.edu.au for subject coordinator approval.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 11 October 2019