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The broad aims of this course are twofold: first, is to consider the significant restraints that defamation law and associated causes of action place on what can be published by the media; and second, is to consider whether the extent and scope of such restraints are appropriate. These aims are pursued through a detailed analysis of defamation law in Australia, as well as by looking at many of the practical aspects of defamation law that contribute to its impact on media freedom.  There is also scope for theoretical, comparative and historical analysis.  Why do we value reputation?  How should we protect it?  How do other jurisdictions approach these questions? Particular focus is placed on questioning the appropriate balance between the protection of personal reputation and the media's perceived role in a democratic society.

Main Topics

  • history and theory of defamation law and the protection of reputation
  • overview of theoretical aspects of freedom of speech, the media and democracy
  • defamation: the cause of action in Australia
  • defences to defamation
  • conflict of laws and jurisdiction, particularly in the context of internet publications
  • practical aspects of defamation
  • alternatives to defamation
  • defamation law in the context of digital media
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Conditions for Enrolment

Prerequisite: Academic Program must be 9200 or 9201 or 9231 or 9214.

Course Outline

To access course outline, please visit:

Pre-2019 Handbook Editions

Access past handbook editions (2018 and prior)

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