In this course we will explore, critique and apply various aspects of the law that affect the media, and newsgathering and reportage practices. We will analyse the normative underpinnings of press freedom, before examining the ways in which the law protects media and journalists as such, and the ways in which media and journalists, as such, are regulated by law. We will analyse, evaluate and apply laws that can restrict media and journalists, including state surveillance powers, defamation law, privacy protection, trespass, and contempt of court.
Throughout this course, we will interrogate the law’s adequacy in either protecting or restricting media practices, taking into account relevant aspects of the political, social and information-technology context. We will in this regard evaluate the normative, constitutional importance of media and the press, and critically relate this historical-theoretical dimension to current issues affecting media dissemination and consumption, including defamation reform, press freedom and national security, ‘fake news’, social media, and liability for online communications.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Evaluate the theoretical underpinnings of press freedom, and contrast them with the various normative reasons for restricting media activities, including national security, due process of law, and reputational and privacy rights.
- Construct and defend rationales for dealing with the conflict between the competing theoretical perspectives of freedom and openness in media communication on the one hand, and protection of national security and individual reputation and privacy, on the other.
- Evaluate a range of newsgathering activities and information-content, to identify potential liability in legislation, regulation, or common law, and then synthesise the law’s requirements and the given facts, to formulate legal arguments establishing liability and any defences.
- Critically analyse the ways in which the law currently purports to protect press freedom, and, within the constraints of Australia’s constitutional setting and applicable common law doctrines, devise ways of better securing or increasing press freedom in the law.
- Critically analyse the ways in which media law currently purports to protect individual privacy, and, within the constraints of Australia’s constitutional setting and applicable common law doctrines, devise ways of better securing or increasing individual privacy in the media law context.
- Design and evaluate strategies for communicating, negotiating with and representing key stakeholders, including media clients, media regulators, national security agencies, and individuals seeking remedies against media, on liability arising from newsgathering and reportage activities, as well as on the limits of state power as deployed against the media.
- Plan and conduct a project to research and critically analyse how adequately the law reflects the importance of protecting press freedom, the legitimate limitations on that freedom, and the implications that online communications technology and ‘fake news’ have for the law’s capacity to strike the right balance between freedom and censorship.
- Research essay (3,000 words) (50) [LO 1,2,4,5,7]
- Case study covering a range of topics taught (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
- In-class participation (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
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- Classes offered in non-standard sessions will be taught on an intensive base with compulsory contact hours (approximately 26 hours of face to face teaching). The course will also require advanced preparation through assigned readings. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours.
- Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have three contact hours per week.
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Requisite and Incompatibility
Students must rely on the approved Class Summary which will be posted to the Programs and Courses site approximately two weeks prior to the commencement of the course. Alternatively, this information will be published in the Program course list when known.
Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.
Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.
- Student Contribution Band:
- Unit value:
- 6 units
If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.
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