Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module LAW54130: Media Freedom under the Human Rights Act

Department: Law

LAW54130: Media Freedom under the Human Rights Act

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap
Tied to


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to provide an in-depth study of certain aspects of the law governing media freedom in the UK in relation to the media freedom jurisprudence developed under the European Convention on Human Rights and, to a lesser extent, in other comparable jurisdictions.


  • Free Speech theories: the intention is to examine critically the main free speech theories and their implications for the rights and responsibilities of the media;
  • consideration of the Human Rights Act and its particular application to the media;
  • consideration of the Strasbourg jurisprudence applied domestically, including assessment of the underlying principles; differentials in terms of speech protection (political/artistic/commercial speech); comparisons; English common law; Germany, Canada, USA (especially the latter), ICCPR;
  • Contempt of Court: theoretical approaches; the Strasbourg approach; comparisons with the US and Canadian approaches;
  • Restraining Freedom of Expression on the grounds of offensiveness and of protecting morality; Blasphemy, Seditious Libel, Hate speech;
  • Censorship, Licensing and Regulation of the Visual Media;
  • privacy-asserting rights against the media;
  • conclusions and future directions under the Human Rights Act: overall evaluation of current and prospective legal trends.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should gain an in-depth understanding of:
  • the theoretical problems underlying conflicts between free speech and other individual rights and important social goods
  • the ways in which particular constitutional arrangements effect the manner of the resolution of such conflicts and the outcomes reached;
  • strands of common and contrasting reasoning across jurisdictions in approach such conflicts and the phenomena of “constitutional migration”
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In terms of skills, students should be able to:
  • interpret and critically evaluate relevant international treaty provisions, particularly the ECHR and their application to domestic law
  • identify key reasoning tools employed by international and constitutional courts in resolving free speech conflicts and be capable of applying these to new situations and legal provisions;
  • appreciate how cultural, social and historical factors affect legal approaches to key free speech problems
Key Skills:
  • Students should also:
  • demonstrate an ability to understand and critically analyse a wide variety of complex issues of international and comparative law;
  • develop expertise in conducting research into legal materials from a variety of national and international jurisdictions

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Through an in-depth knowledge of the relevant domestic and Convention provisions and jurisprudence in the context of comparative material.
  • By allowing students to develop a critical understanding of the theories underpinning media freedom and of their recognition within the provisions and jurisprudence studied.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 15 Weekly, interspersed with several reading weeks. 2 30
Preparation and Reading 270
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Unseen written examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen written examination. 3 hour 100%

Formative Assessment:

Two assignments of approximately 2,000 words, one each in Michaelmas Term and Epiphany Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University