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Censorship, Contempt and the Media - LAWS8141
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Faculty: Faculty of Law
School:  Faculty of Law
Course Outline: See below
Campus: Kensington Campus
Career: Postgraduate
Units of Credit: 6
EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)
Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 3
Enrolment Requirements:
Prerequisite: Academic Program must be either 9200 or 9210 or 9220 or 5740 or 5750 or 9230 or 9285 or 5285 or 9214 or 5214.
Excluded: JURD7342, JURD7741, LAWS3034, LAWS3042
CSS Contribution Charge:Band 3 (more info)
Further Information: See Class Timetable


This course is concerned with laws that impose significant legal restrictions upon what the media, or other communicators to large-scale audiences, may publish under Australian law. The subject matter is as relevant to the publication of books, films and videos as to newspapers and broadcast programs, and the legal problems presented by the new technologies receive special emphasis. The course begins with some consideration of the meaning or meanings of freedom of expression and the extent to which it is protected in general terms under Australian constitutional law. Special attention is paid also to broad political and philosophical theories about the notions of free speech and censorship. The focus then turns to specific laws having a significant daily impact on the contents of publications. This includes the law relating to racial vilification, blasphemy, sedition, publication of obscene material and contempt of court.

LLM Specialisations

Recommended Prior Knowledge


Course Objectives

A candidate who has successfully completed this course will have a broad understanding of:
  • The general principles and some of the legal intricacies in each of the topics
  • The thematic links between them
  • Aspects of their operation in practice
  • Historical, comparative and policy aspects

Main Topics

  • Notions of "free speech" and "censorship"
  • Australian constitutional position with respect to freedom of speech and its impact on the laws to be considered in this course
  • Racial and religious vilification
  • Regulation of obscene material
  • Art and censorship
  • Blasphemy in a multicultural society
  • Sedition in an age of terrorism
  • Restrictions on court reporting
  • Journalists and confidential sources
  • Sub judice contempt - fair trial versus freedom of the press
  • Scandalising the court


Class participation 10%
Research assignment (5,500 - 7,000 words) 90%

Course Texts

Course Materials will be available before the first class. These contain comprehensive details of the specific readings for each class.

Refer to the course outline which will be provided by the lecturer at the beginning of the relevant semester.


Refer to the course outline which will be provided by the lecturer at the beginning of the relevant semester.

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© The University of New South Wales (CRICOS Provider No.: 00098G), 2004-2011. The information contained in this Handbook is indicative only. While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, the University reserves the right to discontinue or vary arrangements, programs and courses at any time without notice and at its discretion. While the University will try to avoid or minimise any inconvenience, changes may also be made to programs, courses and staff after enrolment. The University may also set limits on the number of students in a course.