Freedom of Speech

Subject LAWS70390 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment: Not available
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


For more information, contact the Melbourne Law Masters office.

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

Freedom of speech is a widely agreed upon principle in free democratic societies. However, at the same time, it is at the centre of fierce and wide-ranging disputes. This subject will examine the rationales for protection of freedom of speech and key controversies about freedom of speech. The subject will be broadly comparative examining the legal protection of freedom of speech in Australia, Europe, Asia and North America. Jurisdictions of particular focus (in addition to Australia) will include India, Malaysia, Germany, the United States and Canada.

Principal topics will include:

  • Normative arguments for freedom of speech and for the regulation of speech
  • The legal mechanisms for protection freedom of speech in international law and selected domestic jurisdictions
  • The relationship between freedom of speech and laws regulating:
    • racial and religious vilification (including holocaust denial)
    • political protest
    • electoral funding
    • terrorism and national security.
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject should:

  • Understand why arguments persist to regulate hate speech
  • Be able to elucidate how and why/why not the regulation of hate speech is consistent with international norms aimed at preserving free speech
  • Explain a variety of approaches to the legal regulation of hate speech
  • Formulate coherent arguments concerning the appropriate regulatory response to particular instances of hate speech.

Take-home examination (100%) (9 – 12 January 2015)

Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Details regarding any prescribed texts will be provided prior to the commencement of the subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

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